Stephen Wall, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/02/2010 05:42:44 PM PST
GRAND TERRACE – A group of residents wants the District Attorney’s Office to investigate whether Councilwoman Bea Cortes violated state law by voting to spend more than $2,800 in public funds on a business with financial ties to her.
A complaint was filed last week and is under review, said Susan Mickey, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office.
“We’re looking at it to determine whether it warrants opening an investigation,” Mickey said.
Twelve residents signed a letter requesting the investigation of Cortes, who was first elected to the council in 2002 and is up for re-election in November.
Cortes, 59, said she hasn’t seen the complaint and couldn’t comment.
The complaint alleges that from January 2006 through August 2009, Cortes voted to approve payments to Terra Loma Real Estate, a company where Cortes had a real estate license.
The city paid Terra Loma property management fees for two rental homes on De Berry Street. Gene Carlstrom, owner of Terra Loma Real Estate, said he received $129 a month to manage the properties for the city. The city’s contract with Terra Loma expired in August, he said.
The payments to Terra Loma appeared on the consent calendar, which typically are non-controversial items approved by the council without discussion. Cortes voted 27 times with other council members to approve payments to the company totaling $2,817, according to documents included with the complaint.
Cortes also filed statements of economic interest with the state Fair Political Practices Commission that do not include any reference to her financial interests with the company, the complaint states.
Carlstrom said he doesn’t believe Cortes did anything wrong.
“I don’t think she intentionally had any reason to throw business my way, because there wasn’t anything in it for her,” said Carlstrom, who served on the council from 1988 to 1996. Carlstrom was Cortes’ campaign manager during her initial run for political office.
Carlstrom said all people connected to his office are independent contractors.
“I have no payroll, so it can’t be construed that I had her on my payroll,” Carlstrom said. “She hung her license here. All the time she had her license here she never produced anything.”
City Attorney John Harper said Cortes didn’t abstain from voting on items involving Terra Loma because it was his understanding that the business wasn’t a source of income for Cortes.
“It’s my understanding that Terra Loma has never given her a check in any amount for anything,” Harper said.
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