Daly City councilwoman seeks re-election despite charges

A Daly City council member who is facing 16 felony charges for workers compensation insurance fraud says the criminal case is “not an issue” as she seeks re-election to a third term in November.

“I’ve been encouraged by my community and the voters to run for city council. I have a lot of support out there,” council member Maggie Gomez said. “It’s actually not an issue and that’s all I can say.”

Gomez is one of three incumbents — along with Mayor Mike Guingona and Vice Mayor Carol Klatt, both seeking their fifth terms — trying to hold their spots on the five-member council.

The other four candidates say Gomez is innocent until proven guilty and has a right to run for council, though Dorie Paniza, a challenger who owns three elderly care homes, said “the people should know what’s going on.”

Both Paniza and her fellow challenger Richard Brugger, a retired manager at IBM, said it was time for new voices in City Hall.

“I think it’s good to get some fresh blood in politics from time to time,” Brugger said.

But Guingona, 48, who was first elected in a special election in 1993, said he favors experience. He said the city faces challenges including the future of the Cow Palace, helping small businesses and living within the city’s budget.

“I know how to do this job and I don’t think this is the time to learn on the job,” Guingona said. “I think it’s too important.”

San Mateo County prosecutors say Gomez, 55, filed a false workers compensation claim in 2005 stating she was injured while working as a patient relations manager at Seton Medical Center. She pleaded not guilty to the charges in September and is out of custody on $100,000 bail.

A major question is whether Gomez, if she wins re-election, might have to leave the council only months into a new four-year term.

If Gomez pleads guilty to a felony or is convicted by trial, she immediately forfeits her office, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. The remaining council members would then have 30 days to decide whether to appoint a replacement or call for a special election.

Gomez’s case is scheduled to go to trial March 7.

Asked whether prosecutors would agree to allow Gomez to plead to a misdemeanor, Wagstaffe said, “no, absent something we’re not aware of at this time.”

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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