Marcos Breton

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Marcos Breton: Serna-Mayorga's arrest both stunning and sad

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 7:45 pm

For the first time since he died more than a decade ago, I am glad the late Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna Jr. is not around to see this.

Poor Mayor Joe, who meant so much to this town that his statue stands outside City Hall and his name is on buildings at Sacramento State, would be heartbroken today – the day after his daughter was arrested on felony charges of grand theft of public funds.

Lisa Serna-Mayorga had been a top aide to Mayor Kevin Johnson and had worked inside City Hall offices once graced by her gregarious dad, who died too young of cancer while still in office in 1999.

On Tuesday, Serna-Mayorga was arrested by officers from the Sacramento Police Department, an agency Joe Serna helped reshape. It was stunning to see her booked into the Sacramento County jail, with bail at $50,000. Her case, which first came to light months ago when she resigned from Johnson's staff amid accusations of misusing her city credit card, has caused a palpable sense of mourning among many people – both powerful and humble – who knew her dad and her mother, Isabel.

Her brother Phil is a Sacramento County supervisor and a rising political star in his own right. At one time, Serna-Mayorga was one of Johnson's closest friends. The two go back years, to when Johnson was running charter schools in town and Serna-Mayorga was at his side.

Now this?

Serna-Mayorga is named in five separate counts of tawdry crimes, including: taking money and personal property belonging to the city of Sacramento; forging the names of others; and attempting to repay the money with bad checks.

The DA's report tallied $20,175.45 in bad charges, noting that $1,132.16 was reimbursed – leaving $19,043.29 that Serna-Mayorga allegedly misspent. The charges were made at department stores, hotels and some of the nicer restaurants in Sacramento.

Good Lord.

If these charges are proved in a court of law, they speak to a shocking lack of ethics. Did she think she could get away with it? Did she think she was entitled because of her name?

Serna-Mayorga wasn't raised that way. Her parents were people who made something of themselves from humble beginnings and were adored by friends and family while they were alive. Her dad was a dynamic mayor and professor at Sacramento's public university. Her brother won't even let people buy him lunch.

A downward spiral like this can happen to a loved one within any family, and when it does, all you can do is mourn the people you thought you knew and helplessly ache as they face the music.

Lisa Serna-Mayorga deserves her presumption of innocence. But if she is found guilty, it would be a reflection only on her.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton, news columnist

Marcos Breton

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I'm supposed to connect the dots on issues, people and relationships that cause things to happen or prevent them from happening in our region. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a voter in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, I have voted for Barry Bonds - twice. I am a native of Northern California. I am the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Phone: 916-321-1096
Twitter: @MarcosBreton

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