The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office Thursday dropped criminal charges against Yolo County school board candidate Maria Grijalva that alleged she misappropriated campaign funds.
Grijalva appeared for an arraignment in Yolo County Superior Court, but Yolo County Supervising Deputy DA Ryan Couzens withdrew the charges prior to the hearing.
Couzens told the court that a complaint had been filed against Grijalva with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, and the DA’s office would defer to that investigation.
The FPPC complaint was filed by West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon on Oct. 2, according to FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga.
Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig filed criminal charges against Grijalva Oct. 9 alleging she had misused money from a campaign committee to buy mailers and an ad.
Grijalva said the dismissal was a relief.
“I feel vindicated. I feel very good,” Grijalva said outside the courthouse surrounded by about a dozen friends and supporters. “I didn’t think would happen so quickly.”
Grijalva said she believed the charges were politically motivated because she had supported a candidate running to unseat Reisig in the June primary.
Reisig’s office declined and interview request.
“There’s really nothing more to be said beyond what the DA’s office stated in court,” said Yolo County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Jonathan Raven in an email.
Attorneys specializing in campaign finance said it’s unusual for a district attorney to pursue misdemeanor campaign finance violations that aren’t included with more severe criminal charges such as embezzlement or money laundering.
“By pursuing these charges criminally, it definitely demonstrates an unfamiliarity with this area of law,” said San Francisco political law attorney Jesse Mainardi, who was not invovled in the case.
Grijalva said she has “no concerns” about the FPPC complaint.
“I’ve been following step-by-step what I’m supposed to do,” Grijalva said.