Chula Vista City Attorney race heats up as candidates center corruption

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — The race for City Attorney in Chula Vista has been anything but ordinary — from last year’s election of the late Simon Silva to the current a runoff election taking place in the midst of the fallout after fraud charges were filed against a city councilmember.

Marco Verdugo and Bart Miesfeld are the two candidates vying for the position and will face off in a runoff election next March.

On Monday, Marco Verdugo held a press conference outside city hall, outlining “detailed plans to fight corruption and step up accountability“ in Chula Vista, if elected.

This comes after Andrea Cardenas, who represents District 4 on the Chula Vista City Council, and her brother, Jesus Cardenas, were indicted for felony fraud charges earlier this month. The two are accused of using false information to obtain a loan intended to pay employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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However, the candidates say this is not the first time Chula Vista officials have been faced with addressing corruption allegations.

In September, Verdugo says the owner of the first licensed commercial cannabis dispensary in the city was charged with 11 felony counts, “including wire fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.”

“The need to fight corruption head-on has never been more pressing,” Verdugo said during the press conference Monday morning.

Miesfeld echoed this sentiment in an interview with FOX 5 Monday afternoon, saying “CV is sick and tired of its political leaders and civic leaders being under investigation.”

Both candidates have stopping potential wrongdoings on the front of their minds, should they be elected.

“Day one, I’d go in to make sure that everything is transparent, accountable that there’s no back room deals,” Miesfeld said.

“I vow on day one that we are able to restore trust and accountability in our city officials,” Verdugo said.

Despite the agreement on the need to address corruption, Cardenas’ legal battles have been a point of contention between the two, as Verdugo was previously endorsed by the councilmember.

On Monday, his team told FOX 5 that he his no longer accepting the endorsement. He has also called on Cardenas to immediately step down from her seat on the City Council.

“We deserve a city council that looks after our taxpayer dollars with prudence,” Verdugo said. “That’s not what we’ve recently received, and that is what needs to change. I’ve already called for Councilmember Cardenas to step down.”

However, Miesfeld is not calling on her to resign at this time. After asked by FOX 5 about the councilmember, Miesfeld said “You know what I think needs to kind of run through the courts, I’m not a judge, I’m not a jury.”

Chula Vista residents call on Councilmember Andrea Cardenas to resign

FOX 5 reached out to Cardenas’ attorney after her arraignment about resigning, but they said she had no plans to step down at this time.

Several Chula Vista residents were outside City Hall during Verdugo’s press conference on Monday sharing the concern that he had been endorsed by Cardenas.

“We want this to be the beautiful city that it is and to maintain the integrity that it deserves, in the city council chambers as well as everywhere else, so we are here to hold the feet to the fire, whatever it takes,” one resident shared with FOX 5.

Verdugo announced a plan on Monday to “fight corruption” with various steps, including revising the city charter, establishing an independent auditor’s office and allow for the temporary suspension of City Council members while the city attorney works with the body’s Ethics Commission to make recommendations.

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