Long-time Contra Costa County official charged with 34 crimes in campaign funds investigation

Contra Costa County prosecutors on Wednesday indicted a longtime local politician with 34 crimes related to the misuse of campaign funds.

Joe Canciamilla, former county clerk-recorder, county supervisor and member of the Pittsburg state assembly, faces 30 counts of perjury for alleged misrepresentation on campaign disclosure forms and four counts additional related to his alleged personal use of more than $ 260,000 in campaign funds.

Contra Costa County Prosecutor Diana Becton said in a statement that Canciamilla started not reporting investment gains on a campaign bank account in 2010, and used that income to pay for vacations in Asia, restaurants, plane tickets and a personal loan over the next six years. .

“Given the recent history of misconduct by various elected officials in Contra Costa County, Canciamilla’s behavior is troubling and he must be held accountable,” Becton said.

The charges follow the resignation of then-prosecutor Mark Peterson in June 2017 as part of a plea deal with the state attorney general‘s office over his use of $ 66,000 of funds from campaign for personal expenses. He had been charged with 13 crimes and had not pleaded for perjury.

Canciamilla, 65, has not been arrested due to policy changes during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Scott Alonso, spokesperson for the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office. He has a summons to appear in court on July 27.

His lawyer, Mike Raines, said he was disappointed the district attorney charged with mistakes for which Canciamilla had already made amends. Raines said he hoped prosecutors would consider Canciamilla’s age, more than four decades of public service and a $ 150,000 fine he paid the ethics watchdog last fall. campaign campaign.

“It was a substantial punishment, both in terms of the amount and the impact on his reputation as both a public servant and a human being,” Raines said. “They feel the need to rehash, regurgitate, and punish Joe again.”

Canciamilla was elected to the Pittsburg School Board at the age of 17, and he went on to serve on the Pittsburg City Council and Contra Costa County Supervisory Board before winning the first of three terms in the Assembly of the state as a Democrat in 2000.

He opened a campaign account for a county judge seat in 2011, but was ultimately not a candidate. He was appointed Registrar in 2013 and has been elected twice.

But Canciamilla abruptly resigned his post of overseeing elections and filing in Contra Costa County last fall, shortly before he agreed to the fine with the Fair Political Practices Commission.

An investigation by the commission’s enforcement division found that Canciamilla repeatedly mixed his campaign contributions with his personal funds, including transferring $ 70,000 from his judicial race committee to a personal checking account in 2011, which he then tapped into to open a money market account for the committee.

This investigation found that Canciamilla spent more than $ 36,000 in campaign funds for a vacation in Asia in 2014, as well as an undisclosed sum on credit card fees related to renovating a home it. owned in Hawaii.

Alexei Koseff is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @akoseff

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