SALINAS, Calif.- We have new information on a local city councilmember at the center of conflict of interest allegations and we've learned that resolving this issue could put taxpayers on the hook.
That's because newly elected Salinas Councilmember José Castañeda is also a board member with the Alisal Union School District. By sitting in both seats, the Monterey County District Attorney's Office said Castañeda isn't following the California Conflicts of Interest law, Government Code 1099.
So we found out why the Monterey County Office of Education got involved and how it could cost you, down the line. Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski said if Castañeda were to step down from the school board, it's her job to fill the position.
"Letters of resignation come to the county superintendent and when a board member resigns, the school district then has 60 days to make an appointment or I call for an election," said Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski.
An election would cost taxpayers. Since Castañeda was a school board member before being elected to city council, state law says to avoid a quote "clash in official loyalties" Castañeda would need to leave his first job before taking the second. But Castañeda said he's staying put.
"My constituents support me in doing this. So the dilemma happens to be some public opinion and political powers that have been there that I happened to have taken head on," said Salinas Councilmember and Alisal Union School Board member José Castañeda.
Kotowski said she sent a letter to Castañeda in December, informing him of the potential conflict and hasn't heard from him since.
"I sent this letter because it's the first time that this has occurred where there hasn't been a resignation," Kotowski said.
But according to Kotowski and the Monterey County District Attorney's office, neither office has the right to do anything about the issue. Assistant District Attorney Terry Spitz said once he caught wind of the issue, he contacted the state Attorney General's office. But Castañeda said he's not worried one bit.
"I don't have any personal gain whatsoever in these offices. So that needs to be known for a fact," Castañeda said.
We've called the Attorney General's office and haven't heard back yet. Spitz tells us the AG's office claims it doesn't pursue cases like this because it just doesn't have the resources. He also said a private person can file a lawsuit against Castañeda, but there's catch. The AG's office has to give that person permission to file the lawsuit.