Former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla pleaded not guilty Monday morning to 34 felony counts of grand theft and perjury related to allegations he illegally used nearly $262,000 from election campaign accounts to pay off a personal loan and for travel and other luxuries.
Canciamilla did not appear at Monday’s brief arraignment in Contra Costa County Superior Court. His attorney Michael Rains said Canciamilla is out of state, and remains free on his own recognizance. Rains entered the pleas in front of Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Laurel Brady.
The district attorney’s office in June had charged Canciamilla, 65, with 30 counts of felony perjury for allegedly making misstatements on 30 separate campaign disclosure forms, along with four additional felonies related to grand theft for using nearly $262,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses from 2010 to 2016.
The district attorney’s office in June said it had been told in early 2017 by the state Franchise Tax Board of possible criminal activity associated with campaign accounts for Canciamilla.
Canciamilla, of Pittsburg, resigned as county clerk-recorder last October, and a short time later agreed to pay $150,000 to the California Fair Political Practices Commission after admitting to spending campaign funds on personal expenses such as vacations to Asia, restaurant meals, airfare, repayment of a personal loan and transfers to his personal bank accounts.
Canciamilla had been a widely respected politician, with a long track record and a variety of experience. He was first elected to the Pittsburg Unified School District school in 1973, when he was 17 (and sworn in at 18). Canciamilla went on to become a Pittsburg city councilman, a Contra Costa County supervisor and state Assemblyman before he was appointed county clerk and recorder in 2013. He won election to that post in 2014 and 2018.
Canciamilla is scheduled to return to court Sept. 8. After Monday’s brief hearing, Rains said he hopes a final “reasonable resolution” can be struck on that date.
Noting Canciamilla has acknowledged wrongdoing, Rains said:
“He’s not a young man, and he wants to live the rest of his life without the weight of this on his shoulders. He understands he did things he should not have done with this money.”