Fountain Valley Mayor Fred Voss, arrested for soliciting an undercover Santa Ana police officer posing as a prostitute last month, pleaded no contest Thursday to the misdemeanor charge and was fined $300 by a judge.
Citing "the continued sensational publicity which has resulted from my arrest," Voss said in a statement released by his attorney that he did not fight the charge because he wanted to avoid a costly and time-consuming trial.
He stopped short of admitting guilt but acknowledged "that a conversation took place in which I used poor judgment."
In the statement, Voss, 52, apologized to Fountain Valley residents "for any embarrassment that I may have caused them."
Voss, a telephone-systems manager for Orange County, could not be reached directly for comment. Approached at City Council meetings and telephoned at work since the arrest, Voss has continued to decline comment.
In a brief hearing Wednesday morning, Voss entered the no-contest plea and was sentenced by Orange County Municipal Judge B. Tam Nomoto. Voss faced a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
County Deputy Dist. Atty. Donna L. Crandall, who prosecuted the case, said the judge indicated that Voss' fine was her standard sentence for first-time offenders of the solicitation-for-sex charge who otherwise have clean records.
Voss was arrested Jan. 30 and accused of soliciting an undercover policewoman for sex at the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Washington Avenue in Santa Ana--the site of a highly publicized and continuing police sweep to rid the area of prostitutes and their customers.
Two undercover female officers stood talking that night at the northeast corner of Harbor and Washington when Voss passed them several times in his gray Volvo, according to police reports.
About 10 minutes later, Voss pulled his car behind one holding an undercover officer on the south side of Washington, east of Harbor.
As undercover officers in a camper parked at the northeast side of Washington watched, one of the "prostitutes"--a civilian member of the Police Department--crossed the street and approached Voss' car.
Voss used street terms to solicit the woman for oral copulation, the police records state.
In all undercover prostitution operations, the customer has to offer a fee in exchange for sex to be charged with soliciting, officials say.
Crandall said Voss' solicitation "involved a conversation. No money was actually exchanged."
In the prepared statement read by his attorney, Thomas M. Whaling of El Toro, Voss said he did not contest the misdemeanor charge because "I believe that it is necessary to put an end to the continued sensational publicity."
A trial, he said, "would also provide more opportunity for the communication media to further exploit the situation, and the glare of the publicity . . . (would continue) to interfere with the carrying out of the duties to which I was elected."
The two-time mayor also thanked the "scores of people who called, wrote or came to the last council meeting to express their support. I particularly want to thank my fellow council members for their support throughout this difficult time."
Voss' statement concluded: "I only hope that people will judge this lone incident in the context of my unblemished 20-plus years of dedicated public service to the community. I fully intend to continue that service."
Voss referred any other inquiries to his attorney.
Whaling said the solicitation charge falls into an umbrella category in the Penal Code called disorderly conduct.
"The only thing he is pleading to is the disorderly conduct, and part of that is talking to the prostitute," Whaling said. "There were defenses here, but he doesn't have the money, and we don't have the desire to continue."
Fountain Valley City Atty. Alan R. Burns has said that only a felony conviction or an offense involving official duties would constitute grounds for Voss to step down from his position.
Community reaction to Voss' arrest has been mixed. Some residents questioned his judgment in approaching an apparent prostitute on the boulevard during a time that undercover police sweeps there have been so highly publicized.
The mayor's own Police Department has conducted undercover prostitution operations on the same boulevard in Fountain Valley, in which officers videotape suspected prostitutes and their customers.
But there have been no public calls for Voss to relinquish his public position.
And Fountain Valley Councilman George B. Scott said Wednesday that he does not expect major repercussions for Voss, who he said "used poor judgment."
"He made a mistake, and as far as I'm concerned, the council's not going to do a thing. We're not going to condemn the man for one mistake," said Scott, a close and longtime friend of Voss.
"Anybody who did something like that made a mistake," Scott said, adding that City Hall officials had received just a few phone calls from citizens about the arrest.
Times staff writer Richard Beene contributed to this report.