Who’s Pulling Tori’s Strings?
By Frank Gayaldo
SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY- Determining who is financially supporting and Influencing San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar’s re-election bid and her ever-evolving prosecutorial policies is proving to be extremely difficult.
Salazar has lost and now openly rejects the support of the local police associations that once helped her rise to power. Previously Salazar also received financial support from local defense attorney Al Ellis, who defended former San Joaquin Supervisor Victor Mow in his vehicular DUI manslaughter case.
Mow was sentenced to two days in the county jail, but since he was booked just before midnight, his sentence for killing a man was two minutes. Salazar denies her office had anything to do with the light sentence and blamed it on a visiting judge.
Due to Salazar’s multilayered relationships with nonprofits such as “Fair and Just Prosecution,” “Tides Advocacy”, “Prosecutor’s Alliance”, Fathers and Families of San Joaquin, and a little known tool of the highly affluent called “donor assisted funds”, figuring out who exactly is behind the curtain of Salazar’s prosecutorial policies and re-election financing has been difficult to say the least.
According to convicted felon and alleged child rapist Sammy Nuñez, his now defunct nonprofit, Fathers and Families of San Joaquin and him personally once helped “create the menu and set the table” that determined Salazar’s policies:
Despite numerous bipartisan demands for her to recuse herself due to multiple perceived and real conflicts of interest, Salazar’s office is currently handling Nuñez’s child molestation case.
Salazar claims she does not have an attorney client or confidential informant relationship with Sammy Nunez, despite the fact on 4/21/21, county counsel claimed that she did. Neither Salazar or county counsel have explained why their statements cannot be reconciled with each other.
Salazar has since admitted her office does not have a written confidential informant policy, despite her investigators being tasked with “establishing and maintaining” such relationships.
The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors currently give Max Szabo, a crisis communications consultant based in San Francisco, $2000 a month to help Salazar navigate such contentious issues. Szabo also does work for Prosecutor’s Alliance and George Gascon.
Our investigation into who is influencing Salazar not only led us to Sammy Nunez, but also Prosecutor’s Alliance”, a “nonprofit” whom claims to be a “fiscally sponsored project” of Tides Advocacy in San Francisco. 209 Times asked the FPPC to determine why Salazar hasn’t filed any behested payment disclosures so we could determine where the money from this organization is coming from. The FPPC initially rejected our request, but it’s now taking our request under “reconsideration”.
From its inception, Salazar was propped up in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere as a cofounder of Prosecutor’s Alliance, along with George Gascon, Chesa Boudin and Diana Becton. One of their earliest stated missions was to “cure the conflict” created by police association special interest money being given to their political rivals.
Yet according to a letter Prosecutor’s Alliance attorney Lacey Keys wrote in an apparent attempt to distance Salazar from Prosecutor Alliance’s fundraising, calling Salazar a “founder” is a “misstatement”.
Attorney Keys gave the following explanation:
“During the initial formation of the Prosecutors Alliance, there was some consideration given to some of the elected District Attorneys having a larger role in the organization and that it may be formed as a trade association. At this early point in time there were some communications which referred to the four District Attorney as founders, however these were misstatements made in the early stages of formation.”
Lacy’s letter, which was provided to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) by Salazar’s San Francisco based campaign finance lawyer, James Sutton, also went on to claim Salazar is “not a decision maker” in the organization.
According to the Prosecutor’s Alliance updated website, Salazar is only an advisory committee member, but somehow not a member of Prosecutor’s Alliance. Read their explanation for yourself here:
According to Prosecutor’s Alliance’s attorney, the Advisory Committee that allegedly has “no decision making powers” was originally named the “executive committee”.
Prosecutor’s Alliance explains:
“This committee was formerly titled the “Executive Committee” but renamed to better reflect its nature and purpose of educating the staff at Prosecutors Alliance on current policy issues and to properly reflect that the elected officials have no governing authority.”
On September 1, 2021 Salazar admitted to the FPPC her name “evidentially” shows up on grant applications, but claims this was done “without her input or participation”.
In an initial public records response, the FPPC originally failed to include any public documents from Salazar’s San Francisco based campaign finance attorney, James Sutton. As 209 Times continues to press for answers, at least portions of the truth continues to slowly drip out.
Sutton admits Salazar’s photo and name shows up on the Prosecutor’s Alliance website, but purports since the bulk of the money raised didn’t come directly through the website, it is not reportable.
In one letter from Sutton the FPPC initially withheld from 209 Times, Sutton oddly asked the FPPC to replace one letter with another that gave a different “legal description of the fiscal sponsor”.
Although the FPPC has apologized for the “delay and confusion” they have yet to explain why they initially withheld public documents crucial to an investigation request initiated by 209 Times’ Frank Gayaldo.
The FPPC also appears to be continuing to withhold information that could shed more light into why Salazar has not reported any behested payments to the FPPC.
209 Times is continuing to press Salazar and the FPPC for answers.