A local business owner has been accused of lying about her credentials to run for Santa Clara County sheriff, and the findings are troubling.
Last week, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced a perjury charge against Anh Colton, who came in last out of four other candidates in the primary election for sheriff with 4.36% of the tally. According to the DA, California law requires county sheriff candidates to have law enforcement experience within the last five years. Colton has none, but allegedly said she did on a declaration form.
Colton is expected to be arraigned this summer. Felony perjury carries a punishment of up to four years in county jail.
Questions were raised about Colton’s experience shortly after she participated in a candidate forum hosted in late March by the Silicon Valley Public Accountability Foundation. According to a statement from the DA, the office sent an investigator to Colton’s home in April. Colton referred the DA to her campaign advisor, who allegedly told the office to stay away from the candidate.
Colton did not respond to requests for comment.
Deputy District Attorney John Chase told San José Spotlight the DA had strong suspicions about Colton, but couldn’t charge her until it received records about her employment history from the California Employment Development Department. Chase said this happened right before the June 7 election.
“We tried to get the charges filed as soon as possible because we knew an election was coming up and knew it could possibly cause voters to vote for someone who was not qualified,” Chase said. He added all kinds of allegations are made against candidates during elections, and the DA’s Office generally tries to be careful about not influencing elections through its investigations.
Colton only received about 4% of the vote and doesn’t qualify for the runoff in November. The DA’s Office said in a statement that because neither of the two leading candidates—retired sheriff Cpt. Kevin Jensen and Palo Alto Police Chief Robert Jonsen—received more than 35% of the vote, Colton’s participation in the race didn’t prevent either from winning outright.
The leading candidates have mixed feelings about this issue. Jensen, who placed second, told San José Spotlight everything affects a race to a greater or smaller degree.
“I would like to see a better way of determining who is actually eligible to run,” Jensen said, adding it’s important to make sure law enforcement jobs go to people with the right experience. “The other thing to think about is there may be an opportunity to save some money if elections are limited to only eligible candidates.”
Jonsen, who placed first in the race, said he has no issues with Colton running, even after it came to light she allegedly lied about her qualifications.
“She brought a perspective that probably a lot of people are feeling that somebody outside of law enforcement should do this role,” Jonsen told San José Spotlight. “That being said, it’s a very complex role and I think her lack of experience showed at the forums, and at the end of the day experience prevailed.”
Jonsen added he understands the DA’s desire to protect democracy and the election process, but doesn’t feel Colton should be punished for her participation.
Colton described herself as passionate about “moral values” and upholding Constitutional principles in a questionnaire she submitted for a candidate forum in March. Colton cited as major accomplishments her planning a picnic for a homeschooling group and co-leading a science and arts fair. Colton said she would increase transparency in the office and ensure the jail is compliant with ADA requirements. She also said the sheriff should release “undocumented convicted serious and violent criminals” to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In April, San José Spotlight inquired about Colton’s eligibility with the Registrar of Voters, the county agency tasked with operating elections. Officials said the department determines if a candidate is registered to vote in the county and if they are registered to vote for the office they are seeking—criteria Colton met.
A Registrar of Voters official said Colton submitted a signed declaration of candidacy and submitted a statement swearing she met the requirements for the office. The official added it is the candidate’s responsibility to ensure they are eligible to run for any office they are seeking, and that the Registrar of Voters does not have a process under California law to remove a candidate from the ballot.
The Registrar of Voters did not respond to requests for comment following the DA’s announcement.