Daly City council member Gomez's future uncertain

A felony fraud case against a Daly City council member could potentially make her the first Peninsula politician in at least three decades to be forced out of office because of a criminal conviction, prosecutors say.

Maggie Gomez, who was re-elected to a third term in November, is set to return to San Mateo County Superior Court on Jan. 31 for a pretrial conference in advance of a March 7 trial on 16 felony charges.

If she is convicted or pleads to a felony she will immediately be disqualified from office, raising questions about how she will be replaced. Gomez has previously declined to discuss her case and could not be reached for comment.

Prosecutors discussed potential plea agreements with defense attorney Michael Rains prior to Gomez’s last court appearance in August. But since then, Rains — who also represented former BART officer Johannes Mehserle — has been out of touch, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Wagstaffe said prosecutors will not allow Gomez to plead to a misdemeanor. That likely means she would need to go to trial and obtain an acquittal or a hung jury in order to avoid a felony conviction that would disqualify her from serving on the council.

Other Peninsula politicians have had run-ins with the law, but none in at least three decades have resulted in convictions that expelled them from office, said Wagstaffe. “It’s a rare and unique thing,” he said.

In the event of a vacancy, the remaining city council members will have to choose whether to hold a special election. The council could choose to appoint a person to the seat rather than hold a special election. But a 1992 city ordinance says the appointee would stay in the seat only until a special election could be held, such as at the next regularly scheduled election, said City Attorney Rose Zimmerman.

“The spirit [of the law] is pretty much [that] you have to have a special election,” Zimmerman said.
At least one council member already knows he would support an election.

“I think what we should do, like they do in any good democracy, is give the authority and power to the voters,” said Council Member David Canepa. Gomez pleaded not guilty earlier this year to the charges, including 10 counts of making a false statement to obtain insurance, five counts of presenting a claim with false information and one count of attempted perjury.

San Mateo County prosecutors say she filed a workers compensation claim in 2005 stating she was injured at her job at Seton Medical Center, then was later seen doing things she claimed she couldn’t do, such as exercising and lifting groceries.

Her council colleagues said they don’t think the case has affected the council thus far, and they hope it stays that way.

“It’s my hope it doesn’t become a distraction,” said Council Member Mike Guingona. “I think we’ve done a fairly good job up until now.”

“I can tell you I’m supportive of Maggie’s effort to try to do all she can to clear her name and defend herself,” said Council Member Sal Torres. “For me, as long as she’s working and helping the residents, there’s no problem for me.”

 

Case is a first on Peninsula

Daly City Council member Maggie Gomez is not the first Peninsula council member to face criminal charges. But unlike other embattled politicians in recent years, Gomez is set to still be in office as the allegations reach a jury trial. 

If she is convicted, she would likely be the first San Mateo County council member in decades to be forced from office because of a felony conviction, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, who joined the office in 1977 and will become district attorney this week.

In a previous high-profile local case, former San Carlos Mayor Mike King was convicted of two felony fraud charges in April 2006 and was later sentenced to 45 days in jail. Prosecutors said King, who had left office about five months before his conviction, told a political campaign consultant to bill a local fire authority for work she never did.

In October of the same year, 20-year Colma Town Council member Philip Lum was indicted on federal corruption charges for accepting plane tickets from Lucky Chances Casino and not reporting them. He lost a re-election bid in November 2006, pleaded guilty to two charges and was sentenced in July 2007 to 18 months in prison.

Former Colma Council Member Ronald Maldonado was also charged in February 2007 with mail fraud for accepting plane tickets from the same casino and later struck a plea deal. Maldonado served on the council from 2000 to 2004.

Most recently, sitting Belmont Vice Mayor Member Bill Dickenson was convicted in November 2008 of domestic battery and false imprisonment for pulling an ex-girlfriend to the ground by her purse at a Redwood City bar. But because the convictions were misdemeanors, Dickenson remained on the council.

Bay Area NewsCity CouncilfraudLocalPeninsula

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A health care worker receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccine doses at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Courtesy SFgov)
SF to open three large sites for COVID-19 vaccinations

Breed: ‘We need more doses. We are asking for more doses’

Tongo Eisen-Martin, a Bernal Heights resident, named San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Tongo Eisen-Martin becomes San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate

Bernal Heights resident Tongo Eisen-Martin has become San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.… Continue reading

Homeless people's tents can be seen on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/S.F. Examiner)
Statewide business tax could bring new funds to combat homelessness

San Francisco could get more than $100 million a year for housing, rental assistance, shelter beds

The Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco (a mural by artist Jamie Treacy is pictued) has a lineup of free online programming including activities for youngsters scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18. (Courtesy Demetri Broxton/Museum of the African Diaspora)
Stanford, Museum of the African Diaspora host MLK Day activities

Online offerings include films, music, discussion

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi presides the US House of Representatives vote on the impeachment of US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol, January 13, 2021, in Washington, DC. - The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives on January 13 opened debate on a historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump over his supporters' attack of the Capitol that left five dead. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
House votes 232-197 to impeach Trump a second time

Focus shifts to Senate, where McConnell has signaled he may not stand by president

Most Read