Roman Reyna ran for SanTana City Council in 2018 and won. Only, he didn’t live in Ward 4 like he said he did at the time he filed nomination papers. The former councilman pleaded guilty to election fraud on Thursday after admitting that he falsely claimed a residency in the ward in several official documents between June and October of that year.
The penalties under the plea agreement include a lifetime ban from holding any elected office. Reyna previously represented Ward 5 on SanTana City Council after being elected in 2012. He lost his reelection bid in 2016 before reclaiming a seat two years later.
Under court orders, Reyna must also pay $578,000 in restitution. The sum covers the cost of a special election being held this November since SanTana’s remaining council members couldn’t decide on who to appoint to replace Reyna after the disgraced former councilman agreed to resign from his seat in March. Doing so settled a civil suit brought against Reyna by Phil Bacerra, his 2018 opponent, but legal troubles didn’t end there.
The Orange County District Attorney’s office under Todd Spitzer carried on with a criminal investigation earlier this year, one that led to Reyna’s guilty plea.
“Democracy exists to ensure that people have a voice in how they are governed,” Spitzer lectured in a press release. “Engaging in election fraud robs residents of their voice and threatens democracy.”
Reyna pleaded guilty to a felony count of perjury and a misdemeanor count for filing fraudulent nomination papers. The plea agreement allows for the possibility of the felony conviction being withdrawn after a year if Reyna makes progress on the terms of his probation. If that happens, he’ll be sentenced on the misdemeanor charge.
Bacerra, who’s running again in SanTana’s special election in November, took Reyna’s guilty plea as an occasion for chest-beating.
“Thank you OC District Attorney Todd Spitzer for following through with the prosecution of Roman Reyna and to those who helped us take the action that exposed his illegal activities,” he said in a Facebook statement. “I will always stand with Santa Ana residents, hold our elected officials accountable, and continue to fight against corruption, illegal activities, and politics as usual at city hall.”
This time around, the party decided to endorse Victim Assistance Specialist Beatriz Mendoza. SanTana urban planner Manny Escamilla is also among many candidates vying for the seat.