King convicted of felony fraud charges

Former San Carlos Mayor Mike King was convicted of two felony fraud counts in San Mateo County Superior Court on Tuesday.

After three days of deliberations, the jury found King, 64, guilty of submitting a false claim with the intent to defraud the South County Fire Protection Authority and guilty of conspiring with political consultant Margaret “Peg” Collier, 68, to submit the false claim. The convictions carry a maximum possible sentence of three years in jail.

King’s attorney, Chuck Smith, squeezed his client’s shoulder as the verdicts were read.

Smith intends to move for a new trial June 9, when Judge Barbara Mallach is scheduled to deliver King’s sentence.

“There’s a lot more here,” Smith said. “I want to look into his impeccable background.”

Collier was owed nearly $17,000 for her help in the failed November 2003 Measure I campaign, which would have raised money for the fire agency through a parcel tax. In early 2004, King faxed a detailed invoice to Collier — which he claimed was simply a template — and allegedly told her to bill the Fire Authority for helping find firefighters new jobs, work Collier admits she never did.

Belmont officials took the invoice to the district attorney after it was submitted to City Manager Jere Kersnar, who was serving as the Fire Authority’s chief executive.

King’s trial started March 30. The jury began deliberations Thursday afternoon and returned the verdict Tuesday. “They were grappling with whether Collier had an intent to defraud that was equal to King’s intent,” said Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher, who prosecuted the case.

Smith, in closing statements last Wednesday, said King could not be guilty of conspiracy because Collier had no intention of committing fraud. “King’s intent was clear to [the jury] early on,” Gallagher said.

Though Gallagher did not know what sentence his department would ask for, he doubted King, who is eligible for probation, would be sent to jail for three years.

Collier pleaded no contest to misdemeanor fraud charges in December of 2005, in exchange for testifying truthfully in King’s trial. Her sentencing is scheduled for April 27.

“This verdict sends a reminder to people in politics and government that no matter how many good things you do for the community, you can’t bend the rules,” Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

San Carlos Mayor Matt Grocott said King’s actions could be seen as an example of questionable practices that have earned the city multiple grand jury investigations.

“This verdict closes the door on an ugly part of San Carlos history,” he said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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