The dark cloud wafting over Placerville will likely remain there a while longer now that former mayor and city councilman David Machado received his slap on the wrist. After pleading guilty to three counts last week including a felony count of conspiracy to commit an act injurious to public health, one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to commit a crime, to delay or obstruct a public officer and destroying or concealing evidence and one misdemeanor count of conflict of interest, our disgraced mayor was ordered to pay a token fine of $5,000 and perform 960 hours of community service.
Part of Machado’s plea agreement included his resignation from the Placerville City Council. Of course the noble act would have been to resign immediately following his arrest last year but we’re not talking about someone with noble character here.
An innocent man doesn’t plead guilty unless of course he’s cutting a deal with the district attorney or if you believe Machado, cutting his losses to avoid a costly trial. Forcing him to resign his seat at the city council table prior to accepting this plea deal was all for show. The clock was ticking on what little time he had left in office.
Judge James R. Wagoner really let the citizens of Placerville down. If there was ever any circumstance screaming for throwing the book at someone … this was it. Without exception, elected officials should always be above reproach. Seeing what Machado pleaded guilty to, one can understand there wasn’t much meat on the bone. At least not enough to serve any real prison time.
Machado owns several properties in downtown Placerville. In fact, his recent purchase and current renovation of property at 435, 437 and 439 Main Street proves he has the financial wherewithal to pay the $5,000 fine. It’s peanuts to Machado. No, the real slap in the face to Placerville residents is not having the pleasure of seeing Machado perform his community service hours in the community he besmirched.
I never realized paying your debt to society meant doing community service in another country. Shouldn’t Placerville benefit from Machado’s misdeeds? Why Mexico? The citizens of Placerville deserve better. Instead Mr. Machado gets to travel to Mexico, drink a few Pina Coladas and pound nails into a Mexican shanty.
And who verifies his time? Will chief probation officer Greg Sly travel along to keep an eye on our felon? We think not. Will he Skype him each week to monitor his progress? Or will members of his church bear witness to his hard work and sign off on his parole report? Well, at least he won’t need to worry about applying for proper building permits in Mexico.
All of this would be laughable if it wasn’t for the possibility that two children and their mother could have lost their lives in a fire caused by Machado’s negligence. Remember the rental property on Broadway with the improperly installed heaters? The ones he knew didn’t meet code. Being a crooked politician is one thing — causing possible harm to human life is another.
Perhaps the case against Machado wasn’t strong enough to prosecute. But this was one time the public would enjoy seeing a rotten politician pay through the nose to defend himself. In the end it appears Machado will be classified a felon for three years. If he keeps his nose clean he avoids a maximum of three years in jail. Whoopee!
Of course the judge will claim he was simply adhering to the sentencing guidelines for these types of misdemeanors — but it still smells. Seeing Machado picking up trash along the highway would at least portray him for what he is. Not to be. He’ll be spending his summer in Mexico with friends building homes.
Just how does this international community service gig work? Does travel time to his work assignment count toward fulfilling his hourly allotment? Let’s see, drive time to Mexico and back, siesta breaks and the time required for home construction means Mr. Machado will need to spend approximately four weeks in Mexico to complete his community service to Placerville.
Not bad time if you can get it. And apparently Mr. Machado just did.
Richard Esposito is publisher of the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Wednesday.