District Attorney Jeff Rosen said at a press conference this afternoon that George Shirakawa has agreed to plead guilty to all 12 felony and misdemeanor charges, and that his resignation as county supervisor was in response to the discussions between his office and Shirakawa’s attorney. The prosecutor will seek jail time of up to one year. “Jail. I don’t mean picking up trash or weekend work,” Rosen clarified.
Assistant District Attorney Karen Sinunu-Towery detailed the transactions of a secret bank account that Shirakawa opened, which she called a “slush fund.” The supervisor deposited campaign funds into the secret account and used the monies from contributors to finance his gambling activities at casinos. Shirakawa, who self-surrendered to the county jail for booking Friday morning, moved more than $130,000 in and out of campaign accounts and public money accounts for personal use in the last five years, according to an affidavit. He is being represented by noted criminal attorney John Williams.
In a statement announcing his resignation Friday, Shirakawa said he will plead guilty to all charges on March 18.
Sinunu-Towery went through Shirakawa’s procurement card abuse in Friday’s press conference, in which he charged food, alcohol and travel purchases to the county and then failed to turn in detailed receipts. “Unfortunately, the county only gave these cursory looks,” Sinunu-Towery said. She added that some people left the auditor’s office “because they were uncomfortable” with the county’s failure to rein in the supervisor’s spending. “Since the county didn’t correct it, [other auditors] thought it was okay,” she added.
California’s Fair Political Practices Commission has also fined the former supervisor $50,000, and Shirakawa owes $6,812 in restitution to the county for improperly used funds. This is Rosen’s largest political integrity case since being elected district attorney in 2010. He plans to run for re-election next year.
Rosen said the biggest surprise in the scandal is “that it went on for so long, and the systems the county had in place were not able to detect this.”
In 2010, Shirakawa closed his “Shirakawa for Supervisor” campaign account, started in 2007, and opened a new account with Wells Fargo bank under the same name. The difference in this new account, however, is that Shirakawa kept it secret and used it as a “slush fund” to funnel contributions to his gambling habit.
While Shirakawa had Paz Rocha—father of San Jose councilman Don Rocha—and the mother of one of his children, Linda Delgado, serve as treasurers on his school board and supervisor campaigns, there is no documentation that shows anyone besides Shirakawa was aware of the slush fund, according to prosecutors. The DA synopsis quotes Shirakawa from Metro’s first investigative report saying, “You always have a treasurer in name, and they do a little help. Some people have a treasurer, but I like doing as much as I can, because it’s my responsibility. Plus I like doing it.” Shirakawa’s chief of staff, Eddie Garcia, confirmed to the DA’s office that Shirakawa made the statement.
Shirakawa reportedly funneled $18,020 into his 2008 supervisor campaign between July and December of that year, and spent $17,541 in checks and cash withdrawls, most of which occurred at casinos.