Ex-Colma official Lum reflects on guilt

When a federal judge handed down an 18-month prison sentence for Philip Lum, the worst-case scenario he had prepared for came to life.

“I’m definitely guilty,” he said Tuesday in the living room of his home, a Colma flag still hanging on a wall. “I’m guilty, but in my heart I know I’m not guilty. And God is the one who is really going to judge me.”

In an exclusive interview with The Examiner, the former Colma Town Council member reflected on telling his three grandsons that their grandfather was going to jail, how he will be judged by his neighbors and dealing with his guilt.

Lum, the second-longest serving council member in Colma history, pleaded guilty in December 2006 to accepting a gift from Lucky Chances Casino and failing to report it while voting on matters beneficial to the casino as a council member.

Between 1999 and 2002, Lum took several trips to the Philippines using tickets purchased by Lucky Chances owner Rene Medina; Lum failed to report the tickets in his annual filing to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

During that time, he voted along with his fellow council members to allow the casino to continue operating and allow casino employees to gamble there.

After he was sentenced July 12 to 18 months in federal minimum-security prison, he softened his situation for his young grandsons, saying he was going to go to a work camp. But then he told them he was headed to jail.

“The next day I told them that grandpa did something politically incorrect and that, according to the federal government, grandpa would have to spend time in a facility like jail,” Lum said.

“They couldn’t believe it. They totally cried,” he said.

During his sentencing, Lum, who is set to report for his prison term in early September, said he did not report the plane tickets bought by Lucky Chances owners because he did not want people to believe the tickets influenced his decisions.

“The bottom line is I felt I did not have a conflict of interest, but I failed to report a gift,” he said.

“Honestly, I’m not shy to walk out my front door,” he said, noting the support he has from the community.

Asked about his pending prison sentence, the self-described “family man” said he was “comfortable” with the sentence and his only thoughts were of the well-being of his family.

dsmith@examiner.com

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