A post on the L.A. Times‘s L.A. Now blog the other day literally caused me to do a double take. The post was about former San Diego Councilman Ralph Inzunza, whose conviction regarding bribes and illegal political contributions from a strip club was just upheld by a federal appeals court. The case involved illegal contributions made by strip-club owner Michael Galardi to Inzunza and Councilman Michael Zucchet, who had just stepped in as acting mayor after Mayor Dick Murphy had resigned from office, in exchange for their efforts to repeal a city law prohibiting nude entertainers from touching patrons. (The ban never was repealed.) Councilman Charles Lewis was also indicted but died before trial.
As a San Diego Union-Tribune article relates,
Zucchet and Inzunza, both 35, were accused of taking $34,500 in cash bribes and campaign contributions from Galardi in a failed plot to repeal the city’s “no-touch” ordinance. [Galardi’s lobbyist Lance Malone] allegedly delivered the wads of cash from Galardi to Inzunza and Zucchet.
Inzunza and Zucchet were both convicted in 2005 of conspiracy, extortion, and fraud. Inzunza was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Curiously, Zucchet’s conviction was overturned by the federal judge who heard the case and the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals refused the prosecutor’s bid to overturn the acquittal order. Both resigned from the city council following their convictions.
Now comes the part that caused my “wha-huh?” moment:
Inzunza has been free on bail since the conviction. Zucchet is now acting general manager of the Municipal Employees Assn.
So, let me get this straight: a city councilman and interim mayor is convicted of conspiracy, extortion, and fraud; resigns in disgrace; and then goes on to be the head of a city employees’ labor union?! Perhaps this should not be so surprising, given the shenanigans of labor unions over the years, but it is very revealing about what the union values and what it stands for. In what private-sector business could you be convicted of corruption, extortion, and fraud, and then go on to become the leader of another organization? Perhaps this will be a wake-up call to taxpayers about the kind of thieves and thugs that wield enormous influence over our governments.