Esther Estrada

San Bernardino councilwoman alleges bribery attempt
Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/29/2009 06:22:12 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – City Councilwoman Esther Estrada publicly accused the developers of a senior housing complex with offering her and three other council members “whatever you want” in exchange for votes.

“We were offered a bribe,” Estrada said at the close of a candidate forum this week before Home of Neighborly Service.

Jasmine Borrego, president of Telacu Residential Management, which is developing the housing project, said there are no facts to support allegations of bribery.

“This is a project that no one can say is a bad one,” Borrego said.

Estrada said Thursday that she has not reported her suspicions to the District Attorney’s Office because Mayor Pat Morris, a former judge, didn’t seem alarmed when she previously voiced concerns during the June 1 council meeting.

Estrada is running for reelection against Virginia Marquez, a retired parole agent and part-time aide to U.S. Rep. Joe Baca, D-San Bernardino.

The contest will determine who represents San Bernardino’s 1st Ward, an area that includes downtown, part of the Westside and the San Bernardino International Airport site.

Estrada said that Baca’s support for Marquez is retaliation for her opposition to Telacu.

Baca donated $1,000 to Marquez’s campaign on Sept. 30. He and Marquez said Estrada is wrong in claiming the congressman recruited Marquez to oust Estrada.

“I’m my own person. I make my own decisions … he (Baca) has mentored me but he has not made it a point to run against my opponent,” Marquez said.

Estrada also asserted that Baca threatened the city’s federal funding over Telacu’s project. She cited a Jan. 30, 2008 letter that Baca sent to the mayor.

In the letter, Baca wrote that “…in the event the City decides that this project is not within its best interests to continue, there may be issues that affect the city in receiving federal funds, such as future grants for housing of this type, or block grant funds.”

Baca said the letter was not a threat, but an effort to communicate that City Hall could risk its ability to apply for federal dollars if the council killed a project after asking Uncle Sam for assistance.

Baca also said he has no reason to believe Telacu would stoop to illegalities.

“I don’t think Telacu would bribe anybody. They know the law,” he said.

Telacu-connected donors, as a group, are the 10th most generous supporters of Baca’s campaigns for federal office, donating nearly $50,000.

Baca said he considers Telacu to be a quality organization and that he has received support from many developers during his career.

“Just because they’re supporting me, it doesn’t mean they are going to get something in return,” Baca said.

The City Council voted June 1 to approve the senior housing project.

To read entire article click here.