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America’s next Colma mayor

By Aaron Kinney
Monday, March 24th, 2008 at 3:25 pm in Aaron Kinney, City Council, Colma, San Mateo County.

If you want to be the next member of the Colma City Council, there’s still more than an hour to rush over to City Hall and fill out an application!

The town is looking for someone to fill out the remainder of Larry Formalejo’s term, which expires in November. Formalejo resigned March 13 after an investigation found that he committed several ethical breaches while in office.

The forms must be filled out and returned by 5 p.m. The council will interview potential replacements at a meeting Thursday.

Here’s a brief quiz to see if you have the right stuff to serve.

Your son is arrested for driving on a suspended license and allegedly violating his probation for a drunk-driving conviction. Should you:

a) Bail him out of jail and give him a stern lecture.

b) Continue reading to your other children from their favorite bedtime story: the Colma General Plan.

c) Call the police sergeant who supervised the arrest and ask if he can make some of the charges “go away.”

d) Contact a magician to see if he can literally make the record of the incident disappear.

If you chose “a” or “b,” you may be a strong candidate. If you chose “c” — as Formalejo did, according to Linda Tripoli, an attorney hired by the town to investigate the former mayor’s alleged improprieties — then you should probably take yourself out of the running.

If you picked “d,” please call former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who would like to know if you have any referrals.

Here’s another one. True or false: Lucky Chances Casino, the local card room, is an appropriate place to use your town-issued credit card.

Give up? Well, Formalejo chose “true,” according to Assistant City Manager Laura Allen, who recounted the incident to Tripoli. (The city went with “false.”)

The point here is that it wouldn’t be hard to do a better job on the council than Formalejo, from a civics standpoint, if Tripoli’s report is to be believed.

It’s hard to decide what aspect of the Formalejo affair was strangest. How about the fact that even before he quit, Formalejo’s colleagues on the council didn’t see fit to censure or punish him? Or that he still doesn’t think he did anything wrong? (He said he resigned for health reasons.)

But the richest part of all this may be that Formalejo’s philosophy regarding his town credit card was so out of kilter that his former colleague on the council, Phil Lum, allegedly had to rein him in.

Lum, you may recall, is currently serving an 18-month prison term for failing to report gifts he received from the owner of Lucky Chances. But when Formalejo allegedly tried to bail his son out of jail after that 2006 arrest using the town credit card, Lum had to step in and be the voice of reason, according to Tripoli’s report.

Tripoli could not determine whether that allegation is true, because Formalejo refused to speak to her. Lum was unavailable, she said, as he is sitting in a federal prison roughly 30 miles southwest of Bakersfield.

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