On May 25 at noon, city councilmember and mayoral candidate Steve Castaneda called a press conference on the steps of city hall to announce his exoneration…again.
In 2006, the district attorney’s office, acting on an anonymous tip, investigated Castaneda for allegedly trying to use his office as city councilmember to purchase a condo at a special rate. Ultimately, he was charged with perjury. In 2008, a jury found him innocent.
Then, in November 2009, Angel Castillo filed charges against Castaneda for election irregularities. According to a 10news.com report from that time, “Castillo found public records filed by Castaneda about his campaign finances. He said those records helped him discover 83 cases of misconduct.” However, Castillo never filed a records request with the city, which leads Castaneda to conclude “that someone fed Castillo the records.”
In 2006, Castaneda was running against Cheryl Cox for mayor; Mayor Cox is currently Castaneda’s major opposition. Castaneda said Cox has been using her recent campaign mailers “to make full political use out of this investigation.”
Julia Sylva was the outside attorney hired by the City to look into Castaneda’s alleged violations from 2006 and 2008. On the steps of city hall, Castaneda read from Sylva’s findings: “Therefore it appears that the complainant [Castillo] is forum-shopping and that he filed the complaint to keep the allegations alive… It is unfortunate that the complainant chose to make serious allegations which compelled the City to respond to what actually were frivolous allegations. The City expended valuable resources to prove him wrong.”
Valuable resources were a dominant theme at the press conference. Castaneda said the investigation will cost over $25,000, and it comes at a time when the City is struggling financially.
Alicia McGinnis, a community member who attended the press conference, said in an interview later in the day, “They spent a million dollars when Bonnie Dumanis did her investigation…at the end of this it came up that nothing was there. Then, when Steve Castaneda is running for mayor, all of a sudden we have more charges. Think about it: if he could have spent all the money he spent on attorneys on his campaign, what would happen? And to use our city funds to do an investigation that they knew was unfounded because it had already been investigated five years ago, how does it make sense to anybody?”