10:41 PM PST on Sunday, November 22, 2009

By GAIL WESSON
The Press-Enterprise

It took three times on the ballot for Steve Di Memmo to get elected to the San Jacinto City Council, and now, after almost a year in the post, some are calling him the last man standing.

The city’s four other councilmen have been indicted in a sweeping corruption probe. Di Memmo says they should resign in the best interest of the city.

The Nov. 12 corruption indictment accuses the four councilmen and five others of laundering tens of thousands of dollars in campaign money as well as tax fraud, bribery, perjury and filing false government documents.

Di Memmo won’t comment on specifics of the allegations but he issued a statement the day after the indictments were issued:

“We must pull together as a community to restore our good name, and I would ask that everyone set aside any personal agenda and work toward the true best interests of the city.”

Di Memmo has been trying to reassure residents that business will continue with the city manager in charge of day-to-day operations.

On Wednesday, Di Memmo stopped by the San Jacinto Community Center to visit with senior citizens. “I want them to understand that everything is OK,” he said. “We’re doing well and moving on.”

Toward that goal, Di Memmo was at Farmer’s Corner in San Jacinto on Thursday with Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, helping Soboba Tribal Council members and casino workers unload toys that will be distributed to needy children at Christmas. It was a solid hour of lifting and handing off boxes.

In 2006, Cook defeated Jim Ayres in the 65th Assembly District’s GOP primary that’s at the center of the indictment.

The 155-count indictment names San Jacinto Mayor Dale Stubblefield, 41; Vice Mayor John Mansperger, 41; Councilman James Potts, 67; Councilman Ayres, 48; and Ayres’ wife, Nancy Jo Ayres, 44, a San Jacinto Unified School District board member.

Also charged are developers and businessmen Stephen Holgate, 62, who owns a home in San Jacinto; Scott Douglas Shaull, 45, of Roseville; Robert Edward Osborne, 69, of Mission Viejo; and Byron Jerry Ellison Sr., 70, of San Jacinto. Shaull and Ellison have developed properties with Holgate.

The indictment charges the group with 56 felonies and 99 misdemeanors.

LAWMAN BY TRADE

Di Memmo spent 20 years in federal investigative and law enforcement work, including a stint as a U.S. Treasury special agent. He does public safety consulting and is a general contractor, but the economic slowdown has freed more time for city business. He says it’s like a full-time job.

“The first year has been an adventure. It’s the best way to put it,” he said.

The San Francisco native wound up in the San Jacinto Valley in 1996, where the family of his wife, Kristi, first settled in 1938. Her grandfather, E.E. White, served on the Hemet City Council. The Di Memmos have two sons.

Di Memmo ran for the council in 2004 and 2006 and lost both times. In 2004, Jim Ayres and Chris Carlson won re-election. In 2006, Stubblefield won re-election and Mansperger was elected for the first time.

Finally, in November 2008, Di Memmo won in a race in which three candidates ran for three available seats.

Di Memmo, 53, is a big guy who played football and baseball when he was younger. He wears suits to council meetings and is often seen around town wearing polo shirts that feature the city logo.

On the council, he frequently asks for more background reports and information about the genesis of contracts.

DISSENTING VOTE

Fellow council members appeared to become exasperated with him last summer over his stand on the Soboba tribe’s proposal to add almost 535 acres to the reservation and build a new casino and hotel complex.

The council voted 4-1 to oppose the proposal, with Di Memmo dissenting — not because he approved of the proposal, he said, but because he didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision. A follow-up vote Sept. 17 was unanimous against the proposal. Di Memmo said traffic impacts had not been adequately addressed.

Tribal council members asked to meet with the council to continue talking about the proposal but Stubblefield said in the summer the council would meet only if Bureau of Indian Affairs representatives were present.

Di Memmo “wants to sit down and meet with us,” said tribal council member Rose Salgado. “It’s unfortunate the subcommittee won’t meet with us.”

Stubblefield and Jim Ayres are on the city’s tribal affairs subcommittee.

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