After departure of Maggie Gomez remaining council looks to the future 

Daly City voters may feel a sense of déjà vu when they hear the names of potential successors to a council member who was forced to resign after pleading no contest to felony fraud charges.

The remaining four city council members are expected to schedule a special election for November to replace Maggie Gomez, who pleaded Feb. 25 to two counts of worker’s compensation insurance fraud and resigned her seat.

The rare ouster of a Peninsula council member for a criminal conviction has several former council candidates thinking about the seat, which could be filled in the next couple months if the council decides to appoint an interim replacement.

Richard Brugger, a retiree and community activist, confirmed to the San Francisco Examiner he plans to run, either for an appointment or in the election. Brugger came in fourth behind three incumbents, including Gomez, who were all re-elected in the November elections.

Dorie Paniza, who also ran last November, said community members are encouraging her to run again, though she hasn’t made a decision.  

A third potential candidate is former councilwoman Judith Christensen, who was elected in 2004 and lost a close re-election race in 2008.  She said she’s waiting until after the council votes on a succession process before she decides her plans.

Critics say appointing an interim council member would give that person a significant advantage with incumbency in the Nov. 8 election.

At Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Carol Klatt announced tentative plans to call for the November special election at a March 14 meeting, then accept applications for prospective appointees through April 1.  

Council Member David Canepa said he prefers the approach of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, which declined to appoint a replacement for departing Super-visor Mark Church in December.  

“You leave it open and let the election take place and then whoever wins wins,” Canepa said. “I do think when you run as an incumbent there’s an advantage.”

Christensen agreed, saying an appointment would let current council members “control who the next council person is rather than let the people choose.”  

A plea deal with San Mateo County prosecutors, who agreed to dismiss 14 other felony charges, means Gomez will face up to six months in jail when she is sentenced May 3. Prosecutors said she lied about the extent of injuries she claimed suffering at her job at Seton Medical Center in 2005.

Canepa said Gomez’s plea was “disappointing.”  

“It was sort of my understanding that Ms. Gomez was going to vindicate herself through the judicial process,” Canepa said, “and unfortunately what has actually happened is she pleaded out.”

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