DeVore stepped into controversy almost immediately after taking office. As a freshman lawmaker, he came under scrutiny for filing legislation that would have halted evictions at a beachfront Orange County mobile-home park and benefited the businessman who had chaired his campaign finance operation.
In his 2004 campaign, DeVore received a series of loans from members of the family of Roberto G. Brutocao, his campaign finance chairman and a signatory of the master lease for the El Morro trailer park at Crystal Cove. DeVore also received more than $25,000 in donations from park residents and others with ties to the site.
The state had purchased the trailer park from the Irvine Co. in 1979 with plans to remove the residents. DeVore's legislation would have extended the leases of 275 tenants for up to 30 years, which he said would generate much-needed revenue for the state to help reduce the budget deficit.
Claire Schlotterbeck, a consultant with the environmental group Friends of Newport Coast, called DeVore's explanation "suspect."
"He was obviously greatly influenced by not only the personal connection but the financial connection,'' Schlotterbeck said. "He was, and is, not sympathetic with state parks — period. He just doesn't think that's a role a government needs to play.''
DeVore said El Morro was the only state park that generated net revenue, and bulldozing the place would have cut off money the state needed.
"The parks service was talking about a $1-billion backlog it had for maintenance. We keep adding parkland, but we don't add money to take care of it," he said, although he later withdrew his legislation, which had scant support.
DeVore said his relationship with Brutocao had had no influence on the legislation and that they had never met until shortly before the campaign."I was trying to help people who lived in my district. In my mind, I was standing up to the state," DeVore said.
This is one in a series of articles examining the backgrounds of the major candidates for California governor and U.S. Senate in the June 8 primary election.