REDWOOD CITY -- A jury found Clayton Vice Mayor Joe Medrano guilty on one count of felony embezzlement Thursday, putting his political future in jeopardy and adding a twist to the city's Nov. 6 council race.
The jury deliberated for more than two hours Thursday after the eight-day trial in which Medrano's former business partners portrayed him as an insurance broker who twisted information and stole money from their company.
The guilty verdict begins a process for Clayton leaders to decide whether Medrano should be removed from office immediately or if the voters should decide on election day. Medrano is one of five candidates running for three open seats. He could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.
A representative with the Contra Costa Elections Division said the Clayton city attorney and council will have to decide whether Medrano should be removed from the council. If he is re-elected and does not resign, the council could decide to challenge whether he is fit for office through a process involving the state's Attorney General Office, according to the elections division.
"It's so close to the election I doubt if the council will do anything," said Councilwoman Julie Pierce, who also is up for re-election.
"What he's going to do is what he's going to do," said Mayor Howard Geller, also a candidate on Nov. 6. "I'm in shock just hearing the news. I know his family and his mother and his daughter, and there's a human side of things that we all care about as a community. I guess justice was served."
Jim Diaz, a challenger in the race, said, "It was a tough thing that he and his family faced and I wish him well."
The other challenger in the race, Kevin Liberman, could not be immediately reached.
The felony embezzlement charge stems from Medrano's fallout with a former business partner, iPass, a Redwood Shores-based wireless network provider. Medrano, acting as an insurance broker, took $159,000 in premiums from iPass but never forwarded the money to the insurance agency, prosecutors argued successfully in court.
Medrano's attorney Matthew Oliveri said they will file an appeal.
"At this point, we're still digesting it and we are obviously disappointed," Oliveri said. "We thought the evidenced showed something different than the verdict."
Sentencing has been scheduled for Dec. 12. Medrano remains free on his own recognizance. He faces a maximum of four years in state prison.
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048.