DA candidate challenges Dumanis over Castaneda saga

SAN DIEGO - One of the challengers seeking to unseat incumbent San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis this June wants her to release emails and public records related to the prosecution of former Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda.

Robert Brewer and former San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye held a news conference Tuesday outside the Hall of Justice to challenge Dumanis to release any records related to the controversy.

"The public has the right to know," said Frye. "[Dumanis] has a duty to respond to these questions."

According to a KPBS report last month, then Chula Vista mayor Steve Padilla said that in 2005, he received a call from Dumanis lobbying him to support one of her aides, Jesse Navarro, in his run for an open Chula Vista City Council seat. Padilla allegedly told her that Navarro would not be a good fit.

Weeks later, Dumanis opened an investigation into the Chula Vista City Council over allegations that it collected pay from redevelopment corporation meetings that it did not attend.

Although no charges were filed, in 2006, Dumanis launched a probe into allegations that then-Councilman Castaneda had received special favors from a developer. He was later charged with multiple counts perjury, but was acquitted by a jury.

Castaneda told 10News reporter Joe Little in a text that the trial "stole two years of my life."

The DA's office initially said the documents do not exist, but KPBS found out from the prosecutor in Castaneda's case they do exist.

Brewer claims that if Dumanis failed to inform her lawyers about her lobbying efforts, it was a serious conflict of interest and an ethical breach that taints the Castaneda case.

The last time Frye was in the spotlight, she blasted former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who eventually left office amid a sexual harassment scandal.

"When I show up, I try and show up on something that's substantive," said Frye. "Something I believe the public has the right to know about."

A Dumanis campaign spokeswoman said they are reviewing the documents. The spokeswoman issued this statement:

"The District Attorney won't be rushed to release these documents before they are properly reviewed because it might win a few votes. That would be the absolute definition of politics over public safety."

Frye, an open government advocate, said she just wants to public to see the documents.

"It's about how an elected official conducts the public's business," she said.

Brewer is one of two people running against Dumanis in the upcoming primary. Dumanis is seeking her fourth term as DA.

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