FULLERTON — Former Brea City Councilman Wayne D. Wedin was acquitted Thursday of all conflict-of-interest charges in a trial that grew out of his relationship with a development company that later bid on a city project.
The 53-year-old planner and former mayor faced a sentence of up to six months in jail and a $10,000 fine on each of the five misdemeanor counts.
Wedin, who served as Brea city manager for 15 years before winning election to the council, a post he retired from earlier this week, reached for his attorney's hand as the last verdict was read, shaking it vigorously.
"For the last two years, there's been a bit of a nightmare going on," Wedin said after the verdict. "There have been what have now proven to be unsubstantiated charges and uncorroborated indications of what happened, and I am most appreciative that this thing is finally over. I'm very, very appreciative to my counsel . . . and to the jury and the court. The system worked. . . . It's very nice to be vindicated."
During the trial, prosecutors charged that Wedin earned $37,562 consulting for the Keith Cos., a development firm that held a contract with the city of San Diego to redevelop a low-income neighborhood there, shortly before he helped the company secure a major redevelopment deal with the city of Brea. The city, however, subsequently withdrew from the pact.
Using a chronological chart to outline his case, Deputy Dist. Atty. James J. Mulgrew told the jury Wedin took an active role in helping the Keith Cos. compete for the redevelopment pact--worth $320,000 to the company--without disclosing his financial relationship with the firm.
Wedin's attorney, Michael R. McDonnell, said the verdict was "just what I told you would happen."
Jurors "did the right thing," McDonnell said. "He wasn't guilty when it started. It probably shouldn't have been filed. . . . What's been done to (Wedin) is just terrible."
Wedin was was the second former Brea mayor to face charges of official misconduct in two months.
In October, in an unrelated case, former Mayor Ronald E. Isles pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanor counts of conflict of interest covering his actions as a council member from 1989 to 1991. Isles received three years' probation, was fined $13,500, and resigned his office.
The Isles and Wedin cases, along with the ongoing investigation into alleged influence peddling by County Supervisor Don R. Roth, appear to signal a more aggressive attitude by the district attorney's office because they involve bringing criminal charges in matters that in the past usually produced only civil proceedings.
Of the jury's verdict, Mulgrew said "that's the decision (jurors) made and we'll accept it." But he said that the verdict, which came after a single day of deliberations, did not call into question the district attorney's decision to prosecute.
"I feel this is a case we had to try, given the facts," he said. "Unfortunately, there are not a lot of precedents to guide us on some of the technical legal matters, and so that left the jury with some technical legal issues that had to be dealt with."
Mulgrew's concerns were verified in interviews with several jurors.
One juror, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the applicable laws seemed to have "a lot of gray areas, and that's where the reasonable doubt came in."
Another juror, Steven Goodfriend, 34, of Anaheim, said his main problem came from determining the legal definition of the term \o7 source of income\f7 and whether Wedin was required to disclose Keith Cos. payments as income.
Despite the not guilty verdicts, jurors were not entirely pleased with Wedin's actions.
"Apart from the legal aspect, there were comments about the judgment that he exercised in all this," Goodfriend said.
Mulgrew noted dates on which Wedin received checks from the Keith Cos. for work on the San Diego project, interspersed between Brea meetings on the development deal on land owned by Orange County north of that city.
The point, the prosecutor said, was not that there was a relationship between the payments and Wedin's actions but that the councilman did not disclose the previous relationship in his 1990 statement of economic interest, as public officials are required to do.
The prosecutor said "the gist of this (is) conflict of interest . . . that's what this case is about."
But during the trial, McDonnell said the councilman's financial relationship was actually with the governmental agencies in San Diego, and not with the Keith Cos.
McDonnell acknowledged that Wedin's consulting firm had a "pass-through" relationship with Keith Cos., which had "input but but no supervision" over Wedin's work. The development company billed San Diego for Wedin's work, the lawyer said, but received no "markup" for the relationship.