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Developers testify McFall tried to extort campaign donors

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Posted: Wednesday, February 9, 2005 10:00 pm

SACRAMENTO -- Tracy developers Tony and Mike Souza both testified Wednesday that they felt lobbyist Monte McFall tried to extort campaign contributions from them four years ago.

The Souzas were witnesses for the prosecution in the trial of McFall, a former marshal and ex-county water board official facing 19 counts of public corruption.

"There was the implication of a quid pro quo, where, 'you treat us right, we'll treat you right,'" Tony Souza. "That just makes the hair bristle on the back of my neck."

The Souzas had a meeting in the summer of 2001 with McFall and then-San Joaquin County Supervisor Lynn Bedford over a zoning adjustment the Souzas had filed with the county.

Both Souzas spoke of meetings they had with McFall in 2001, when McFall was working on behalf of Bedford's campaign committee.

Tony Souza said that in June 2001, McFall and then-county Sheriff Baxter Dunn, a political ally of Bedford's, dropped by the Souzas' real estate office in Tracy to solicit a campaign contribution for Bedford.

Tony Souza said that when he told McFall and Dunn that he was inclined to support Bedford's opponent, Leroy Ornellas, the conversation took a turn that left him uncomfortable.

"There was a little bit too much banter back and forth about 'taking care of those who take care of us,'" Tony Souza said.

Mike Souza testified that later that day McFall called him and again tried to solicit a campaign contribution.

McFall told him that he understood the Souzas' support of Ornellas, "but he thought it was a bad business decision."

He said McFall gave him the sense that Bedford could help the Souzas gain approval for their project from other supervisors, such as Dario Marenco and Steve Gutierrez.

Both Souzas also testified about meeting five weeks later with Bedford to discuss their request to rezone 170 acres of farmland on the northeast corner of Interstate 205 and Mountain House Parkway to commercial property.

But Mike and Tony Souza said they were both surprised when McFall appeared at the meeting and said that much of the subsequent discussion centered on political support rather than the project itself.

Mike Souza testified that McFall said Ornellas, if elected, wouldn't be able to work with Marenco and Gutierrez like Bedford could.

"I understood that a good business decision was giving money to Mr. Bedford, and he would guarantee three votes," Mike Souza said.

Contact reporter Ben van der Meer at benvan@tracypress.com.

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