Moreno Valley, CA
After publically admitting during a City Council meeting on June 7 she had once been convicted of embezzlement, Moreno Valley City Councilmember LaDonna Jempson has come under heavy criticism amid growing calls for her resignation.
Jempson revealed her criminal past during a council discussion about whether citizens with felony convictions should be allowed to serve on city advisory boards. During the discussion, Jempson shared her belief that applicants who made mistakes in their past should be evaluated based on their service to the community. She then referred to herself as an advocate of second chances and admitted to her own past criminal indiscretion.
According to Jempson, who is now 60, she lived in San Francisco when she was 26 and was involved in an abusive relationship. At the time, because she feared for her safety and the safety of her child, she committed theft at a bank where she was employed. After being charged, she left the area and made her way to Alaska for a period of time. Jempson said she returned to San Francisco 2 years later and turned herself in to police. She was ultimately convicted, spent 45 days in prison and was sentenced to 60 days of house arrest and 3 years of probation.
Many critics of Jempson claim she should have revealed the conviction 2 years ago when she ran for office particularly since she ran on a platform of transparency. However, supporters believe she not only paid her debt to society but has spent years serving her community in innumerable ways.
There is nothing in state law that prevents a candidate with a felony conviction from running for office unless their crime involved public agency money; there is also no requirement for a candidate to disclose the information unless specifically asked on an application for high office.
To date, none of Jempson’s co-councilmembers have called for her to step down. Also, on the issue that surfaced the concern to begin with, the council elected not to adopt a proposed change that would have barred convicted felons from city advisory boards.
Jempson still plans to run for re-election in November.