Grand jury targets Contra Costa district attorney

A Contra Costa County civil grand jury is citing District Attorney Mark Peterson’s misuse of campaign funds in seeking his removal from office.

In an accusation filed Thursday with the court, the grand jury said Peterson illegally spent $66,000 from his political campaign account on personal items from 2011 to 2016.

These actions, and his failure to report the spending on campaign finance disclosure forms, amount to “willful or corrupt misconduct in office,” according to the grand jury.

The accusation stated:

“Mr. Peterson’s willful misconduct included approximately 600 separate instances of malfeasance and resulted in nine charges by the Fair Political Practices Commission, which Mr. Peterson later admitted.”

Peterson, who first took office in 2010 and won re-election in 2014, was fined $45,000 by the Commission in December for violating the California Political Reform Act by spending $66,372 on personal expenses.

The money came from Peterson’s political campaign coffers and it is a violation of state law to use it for anything other than campaign expenses.

In December Peterson said he considered the money to be loans and that he was paying the campaign fund back.

Peterson said in December in response to the FPPC findings:

“I am humbled and embarrassed by my mistakes, for which I take full responsibility and I apologize for my regrettable errors.”

Peterson reached an agreement with the FPPC’s Enforcement Division on the fine and paid back all the money he took from the campaign account.

The FPPC said in the December agreement with Peterson:

“When an official makes personal use of campaign funds, it erodes public confidence in the political process by blurring that line between lawful contributions and payments to public officials.”

Peterson could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.