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People v. Chacon

Supreme Court of California
150 P.3d 755 (2007)


Facts

Maria Chacon (defendant) was a member of the city council for the City of Bell Gardens, California. Chacon expressed an interest in becoming city manager. However, the city’s laws prevented a council member from being appointed city manager for one year after leaving the council. Arnoldo Beltran was the Bell Gardens city attorney and was tasked with providing legal advice on city business when requested by the council. Beltran drafted an ordinance abolishing the one-year waiting period. The city council, including Chacon, unanimously voted in favor of the ordinance. The city council, without Chacon, then met to select a city manager. The council appointed Chacon. In accepting the position, Chacon resigned from the city council. Beltran approved of Chacon’s employment contract. Chacon was charged with violation of Government Code § 1090, which prohibited certain government officials from being financially interested in contracts entered into by an agency of which the official was a member. The charge alleged that Chacon had an improper financial interest in her employment contract. Chacon raised the defense of entrapment by estoppel and intended to show that Chacon relied on Beltran’s advice that the employment contract was legal. Beltran was prepared to testify that Beltran advised Chacon on the legality of the ordinance abolishing the waiting period and the employment contract. When the court ruled in limine that it would allow Chacon to present the entrapment-by-estoppel defense, the prosecution declined to proceed, and the case was dismissed. The court of appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling on the entrapment-by-estoppel defense on the ground that Beltran lacked the authority to bind the state to an incorrect interpretation of the conflict-of-interest statutes. Chacon appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Corrigan, J.)

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