Letter: She’s ineligible due to felony convictions
Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer
Created: 10/15/2010 08:07:23 PM PDT

Online document: District Attorney’s response (.pdf file)

FONTANA – Two felony convictions have quashed the eligibility of one Democratic Party-endorsed candidate seeking a City Council seat, according to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Abney in an Oct. 14 letter to Police Chief Rodney Jones and Deputy City Clerk Sandra Medina said his office conducted a review of Tami Wetzel’s record of two felony convictions of grand theft and an expungement of one of the convictions, as a well as a detailed legal analysis of the evidence.

“It is our opinion that as a result of her two felony convictions for Grand Theft, Ms. Wetzel is not qualified to hold public office …” Abney wrote. “However, it is our Office’s conclusion that criminal charges against Ms. Wetzel solely as a result of running for public office are not supported by the law.”

Wetzel’s grand theft violations – one in 1995, the other in 1996 – occurred in Orange County, according to Orange County Superior Court records.

Abney went on to say in the letter that should Wetzel win the election and attempt to take public office, she will be ineligible to hold office and will be subject to removal from office through legal action.

“I don’t know if a final decision has been made on that, but I’m sure it’s something the District Attorney’s Office will take a look into,” Abney said Friday.

Abney cited the state’s Constitution and penal code in his letter to Jones and Medina.

Abney also wrote that Wetzel agreed to meet with the District Attorney’s Office to discuss the investigation, but her lawyer’s office canceled the meeting and “ultimately failed to respond to our many telephone calls.”

Wetzel did not immediately return phone calls or an e-mail seeking comment.

Wetzel did appear at the council meeting Wednesday night to denounce a campaign mailer by Michael Tahan, and to announce her Democratic endorsements.

The mailer shows Tahan with his family, two Democratic Party donkey symbols, and the phrase “Democrat’s choice to keep Fontana moving forward.”

Tahan is a registered Republican.

Wetzel said Tahan misled voters, even as she touted her Democratic endorsements.

“Myself, Tami Wetzel, a candidate for the Fontana City Council for this Nov. 2 election, is the true Democrat’s choice, with endorsements from Congressman Joe Baca (D-San Bernardino), San Bernardino County Democrat (sic) Central Committee, Democrat Women of San Bernardino Club Democrat Club (sic), and the Fontana Democrat Club,” Wetzel said. “Democrats, we must all stand together against these lies.”

Paul Fickas, a campaign consultant for Tahan, declined to comment on the district attorney’s letter or Wetzel’s charges that Tahan misled voters with the mailers, but he did say, “the Tahan campaign is proud to have the endorsement of Democrats from the city of Fontana.”

As to Wetzel’s endorsements, Baca spokesman John Lowrey said he would forward to the campaign office a request for the names of local candidates the congressman has endorsed.

The information wasn’t provided by press time, and other Baca representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

The other three organizations Wetzel cited said they had endorsed Wetzel, who is among eight candidates seeking two council seats.

“Our plan is to go ahead and talk to members of our executive board and do our due diligence and also talk to Ms. Wetzel and get her side of the story and take the appropriate measures,” said Ron Wall, chairman of the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee. “If these allegations are founded, it almost becomes a moot point.”

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