A Merced Irrigation District board member seeking re-election has garnered one campaign donation since his conviction was made public for defecating in an act of revenge about a decade ago.
Winton-area almond farmer Kevin Gonzalves wants to retain his Division 4 seat, which he has held since 2012. He pleaded no contest and was convicted in 2009 of a single misdemeanor count of being a public nuisance.
A Stanislaus County Superior Court judge issued an 18-month order instructing him not to “urinate, defecate or vomit in any public place” as part of his probation. He was not an elected official at the time, but the conviction came to light earlier this year.
He has raised about half as much in campaign donations ($7,992) though Oct. 25 compared to one challenger, Suzy Hultgren ($12,050), who held the Winton-area seat before she lost an election to Gonzalves in 2012, according to contributions records.
The third candidate, Sam Sahota, informed the Merced County Registrar of Voters he did not intend to raise campaign dollars, according to the registrar office
A single donation of $5,000, the largest in the race, was given to Gonzalves on Oct. 3 by IBEW 1245, a union for utility workers, engineers, technicians and other workers including some MID employees, according to records. A Sun-Star story on his conviction hit the Internet about three weeks prior to the contribution. The union did not return requests for comment on Friday.
The remainder of his fundraising was money he loaned to his campaign from his personal coffers, according to records.
Dairy farmer Hultgren’s contributions include $1,000 each from Arnold Farms, Robson Farms, Robson Ranch, A&G Farms, PH Ranch, Hilltop Ranch Inc. and farmer Galen Mivamoto. The 53-year-old received 14 other donations ranging from $500 down to $100, records show.
Court records also show the 2009 conviction is just one piece of Gonzalves’ criminal history prior to his election in 2012.
The 46-year-old farmer defecated on the lawn of the Stanislaus County Agriculture Commissioner’s Office in Modesto on Sept. 15, 2008. Gonzalves harbored a grudge after he was fired from his job by then-Agriculture Commissioner Dennis Gudgel, according to the prosecutor with the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.
The Sun-Star also obtained surveillance footage prosecutors said show Gonzalves defecating on the lawn at the ag commissioner’s office at 3800 Cornucopia Way in Modesto.
In the video, Gonzalves pulls up in his truck along with a woman. The woman, identified in court documents as Jennifer Bohl, Gonzalves’ girlfriend and campaign treasurer, gets out of the truck and walks out of the frame. A short time later, Gonzalves gets out of the truck and appears to squat next to a light pole. Bohl reappears in the frame, bends over, and the two both get back into the truck.
Gonzalves has drawn controversy while on the board as well.
In August, MID officials publicly accused Gonzalves of stealing water to irrigate his orchard from the same irrigation district he’s elected to represent. Gonzalves responded by saying he had a right to the water.
In 2013, an independent report by a Sacramento law firm said a proposal for MID to finance a pipeline on Gonzalves’ private property was a conflict of interest and gift of public funds, ultimately putting a stop to the project. The proposed irrigation pipeline on Gonzalves’ farm in Winton would have settled competing lawsuits between Gonsalves and his neighbor, Gary Nunes.
According to Merced County Superior Court records, Gonzalves also was convicted of misdemeanor vandalism in 2009 after damaging his former father-in-law’s truck during a bitter divorce process in which Gonzalves was described in documents as “an angry and violent person.”
The election is Tuesday.