College of the Desert (COD) Trustee Dr. Joel Kinnamon is pursuing a criminal investigation against his former opponent, the college's former president, and its former attorney – alleging illegal use of college resources to negatively impact his campaign during last fall's trustee election.
After defeating Aurora Wilson in the Area 4 trustee election, Kinnamon said he uncovered emails and billing records indicating that Wilson, along with former president Martha Garcia and attorney Carlos Campos, engaged in coordinated efforts to use legal counsel and other college resources to influence the outcome of the campaign. It was first reported by the Uken Report.
"What we saw here was repeated coordination of elected officials, attorneys, and the top administrator of the College of the Desert, using the college's own resources in an attempt to support one campaign and negatively impact the other," said civil rights attorney Megan Beaman-Jacinto, who represents Kinnamon.
Beaman-Jacinto filed an official complaint with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office earlier this month calling for an investigation into criminal misuse of public resources for political purposes, and ultimately a prosecution.
The complaint details several alleged incidents including one in late August 2022 in which it says Aurora Wilson sought feedback on a draft campaign video from then-COD President Martha Garcia.
In September, Wilson sought assistance from Carlos Campos and Garcia to challenge Kinnamon's ballot designation, according to the complaint. Billing records reportedly show that the college's legal firm billed 1.4 hours of work on the matter.
Additionally, internal communications in October and November allegedly revealed discussions among trustees about a lookalike website set up by Kinnamon's husband. College attorneys issued a cease and desist letter, citing copyright infringement. "It was an internal COD inquiry and use of time and resources in an attempt to obstruct or interfere with Dr. Kinnamon's campaign," Beaman-Jacinto said.
The District Attorney's Office confirmed that it has received a complaint through its Public Integrity Unit. The office did not identify the complainant. The office has not confirmed whether an investigation is underway at this time.
Each of the alleged violations carries criminal penalties if charged, leaving the decision on penalties or punishments up to the District Attorney's Office and, potentially, a jury.