COD Trustee Kinnamon alleges potential ‘illegal’ activity used against him in campaign, seeks external forensic audit to review emails

PALM DESERT — Much of Joel Kinnamon’s campaign was built on the platform of “Getting COD Back on Track” by expressing his commitment to the public of providing accountability, transparency and fiscal responsibility. He’s wasting no time in making good on that commitment. He boldly called for a forensic audit in January at his first meeting as Area 4 Trustee.

He did not elaborate at the time, but there is no holding back now.

At the Board of Trustee meeting on Jan. 20, Kinnamon said he has filed a complaint on behalf of district constituents and himself asking Board Chair Bonnie Stefan to place an item on the next board meeting to start a censure process against Trustee Rubén Pérez for his violations that occurred on the board’s dais, and other more recent actions that he believes, violated board policies.

The proverbial they say sunlight is the best disinfectant. To that end, Kinnamon is throwing open the curtains, the shades and the blinds, hoping the sun will pour in.

During his remarks at the board meeting on Friday, Jan. 20, Kinnamon said he wasn’t surprised by his fellow trustee’s personal and political attacks.

“What I am surprised about is the level of potentially illegal political activity that was used against me when I ran for this board,” Kinnamon said addressing the board.  “I have recently been presented with copies of emails between former Trustee Aurora Wilson, President Martha Garcia, and the former Board Attorney, which if true, are potential violations of Board Policy 2716 “Political Activity” and the California Political Reform Act.”

In particular, Kinnamon said that on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, former Trustee Aurora Wilson received an email from her political campaign consultant, (Tizoc) DeAztlan, asking if Wilson had a chance to look at the new Bond video produced for her political campaign in which candidate Wilson narrated.

Trustee and Candidate Wilson that afternoon at 12:42 p.m. forwarded the email from her political consultant and campaign video link to President Martha Garcia asking her to review her political campaign video about COD Bonds and to offer advice on its accuracy, Kinnamon alleged.

“Instead of informing candidate Wilson that she cannot provide advice during district time, or using district resources, President Martha Garcia responded back using her district email at 2:53 p.m. that she had reviewed the political campaign video and will call Wilson back later,” Kinnamon said.

Aurora Wilson 4 COD released her Bond Video on her campaign YouTube channel on Sept. 16, 2022.

“First, why is President Garcia reviewing political campaign videos on a Wednesday afternoon and using her district email and district resources to do so?  Why in her official capacity is she offering political advice to a trustee running for political office?” Kinnamon asked rhetorically.

It doesn’t end there.

On Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, former Trustee and Candidate Aurora Wilson sent an email to former COD Board Attorney and copied President Martha Garcia asking if the District could possibly issue a “Writ of Mandate” to Riverside County’s Registrar of Voters as she objected to Kinnamon’s official ballot designation as “Educator / College Trustee”.

“At the time, and currently, I proudly and voluntarily serve as the Chair of California Indian Nations College’s Board of Trustees,” Kinnamon said. “It is a non-profit, educational organization.

Instead of President Garcia remaining silent or stating that is a campaign issue and that the District cannot be involved, she reminds the board attorney using her district email on Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 6:43 p.m. that he has not responded to Trustee and candidate Wilson’s request and asks that they discuss the matter, according to Kinnamon.

The board attorney responds via email on Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 8:42 p.m. that he believes this is beyond his scope of work, but he will instruct his election expert at his law firm to review the matter.

“The law firm must have believed that this was the most pressing political issue of the very late evening, because they reviewed the item that night and billed the District, paid for by the taxpayers, for 1.40 hours of legal work on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022,” Kinnamon said. “I’m not sure if the District issued a Writ of Mandate on this political matter, but I think the public deserves to know.

“What I do know is that I had to submit evidence of my ballot designation in a very narrow window of time as my ballot designation was being challenged,” Kinnamon continued. “I ultimately prevailed in that challenge.”

These emails appear to be real for which I have copies and I would like the external forensic auditor to review, Kinnamon said, adding that he believes that the taxpayers of this district deserve a refund of these legal fees.

“I also find this conduct so egregious that my personal attorney has suggested that I file a complaint with the State Attorney General’s office to look into how this community college district could be entangled in potentially illegal political activity using district resources at the expense of the taxpayers.”

Suffice it to say taxpayers can probably expect the sun to keep shining brightly on COD — at least for the foreseeable future.  The forensic audit is likely to expose some once-hidden gems.


Image Sources

  • 2023-Aurora-WIlson-v2-800×568-: Aurora Wilson