A federal court judge ruled yesterday to deny a request to release a recommendation letter written by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis on behalf of Edward Susumo Azano, the son of a foreign national at the center of an expanding campaign finance scandal.
The Sept. 28, 2012 letter, now under court seal, recommended Edward’s admittance to the University of San Diego, according to information discussed in court. Its existence could indicate a closer relationship between the Azano family and Dumanis than previously acknowledged by the top law enforcement official.
The letter became public the day before ballot voting in a contentious District Attorney’s race.
Edward’s father, Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, is the subject of a federal probe for allegedly funneling hundreds of thousands of foreign dollars into local elections, including the failed 2012 mayoral bid of Dumanis.
District Attorney Dumanis’ opponent in her re-election bid, Bob Brewer, filed for the letter’s release. He produced Azano’s own attorney, Knut Johnson, who gave details about the letter in open court.
Dumanis’ campaign did not return requests for comment Tuesday, but did provide information Monday that the district attorney did not remember when she met Azano.
Dumanis has said she was unaware and disturbed by the nearly $200,000 of foreign money allegedly poured into an independent expenditure campaign in 2012.
Brewer declined to comment after yesterday’s court hearing. Azano’s attorney, Johnson, said he had no objection to the letter’s release.
“I cannot comment on its relevance and I’m not going to give any information about my client’s relationship with Dumanis,” Johnson said.
A University of San Diego spokeswoman said Edward Susumo Azano attended USD between January 2013 and December 2013. She said she could not release information from his application, including the letter, or provide any further information.
Judge Michael Anello denied Brewer’s request for the letter to be released, saying he did not want to start a precedent of the piecemeal release of discovery under federal seal.
Dumanis’ campaign alerted the media that she would be voting in Kearny Mesa on Tuesday, but Dumanis changed her schedule at the last minute and did not appear at the registrar's office, where reporters were waiting to question her about the letter. Her staff released a new itinerary that shows Dumanis will not make any public appearances until 8 p.m., when the polls close.
Dumanis has declined to discuss the issue or release a copy of the letter. NBC San Diego formally requested the letter Monday through the California Public Records Act.
On Tuesday, Brewer said voters "have a right to know the truth" about Dumanis' relationship with Mexican millionaire accused of campaign fraud.
The Brewer campaign has filed multiple city and state ethics complaints against Dumanis during the course of election season, gaining the attention of the media but with little result from state and local regulators.
The city ethics commission dismissed the allegations made against Dumanis involving $10,000 in campaign money she received.
The Fair Political Practices Commission, a state watchdog on elected officials, has not yet weighed-in about allegations that Dumanis accepted meals without reporting them on state-mandated forms.
Dumanis has a long-standing policy of not eating the meals served at political events, according to numerous local politicians.