Georgette Gómez’s congressional bid has been known for weeks, but a recent discovery regarding the corruption of one of her former staff members is putting her judgment into serious question.
Kelvin Barrios, a former Gómez staffer, had to answer to accusations about his misspending of funds during a school board campaign he consulted for, as well as funds from his time as treasurer of the California Young Democrats Latino Caucus. He was fined more than $4,000 by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) after it was discovered that he illegally spent more than $8,000 from both the committee and caucus accounts. Not only did he cut checks to himself and use a debit card connected to the accounts, but he used these funds for personal expenditures and couldn’t provide documentation to suggest otherwise.
The ruling made by the state’s FPPC states that “Barrios admitted to FPPC investigators that the [committee] purchases were for his personal benefit,” and came to the same conclusion on his spending for the California Young Democrats Latino Caucus. “The Caucus Committee identified, and Barrios agreed, that several expenditures were not authorized uses of committee funds and were for Barrios’ personal benefit.”
He attempted to argue that these funds were simply reimbursements for things he was “owed,” but the lack of recordkeeping on his part obfuscated any leeway for doubt from the FPPC. It’s clear that these were no small violations.
The FPPC wrote that the nature of the violation—that is, personal use of campaign funds—as well as the fact that it was a repeat offense, demonstrated a serious issue with Barrios’ actions. “When a public official makes personal use of campaign funds, it is a serious violation of the Act that erodes public confidence in the political process by creating the appearance that lawful campaign contributions are personal gifts to the public official.”
The investigators noted that Barrios “exhibited a pattern by using multiple committee accounts in this way.” It’s safe to say that similar things may have happened during his time on Gómez’s staff, a claim backed up by the fact that more allegations of misconduct surfaced after the FPPC ruling was released.
San Diego Community College District Trustee Sean Elo announced another 29 instances of misspent funds from 2015-17, totaling $3,600 from the San Diego County Young Democrats. The fact that Barrios knowingly stole funding from a group of young people attempting to gather together and become more engaged in politics speaks volumes of his character, and by extension, volumes about the judgment of Gómez with regard to her staffers.
How can Gómez be trusted to act responsibly as a congresswoman when she can’t even trust her staff to be accountable? The company she keeps is a direct reflection of how she runs her office, indicating that she is unfit to maintain the level of responsibility and transparency expected from a congresswoman.