UPDATE: County supervisor resigns, citing criminal charges

Supervisor George Shirakawa

Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa announced he will resign from office, citing his intention to plead guilty to charges filed by authorities Friday related to Shirakawa’s failure to file campaign finance reports and “inappropriate use of (his) county credit card,” according to a resignation letter he submitted Friday morning. 

Shirakawa announced in his letter that he will plead guilty to the charges filed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. 

District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a press release later Friday that Shirakawa has been charged with four felony counts of perjury, and one felony count of misappropriation of public funds, as well as seven misdemeanors for failing to file accurate campaign reports. 

The supervisor was “engaged in a persistent pattern of misusing public money and campaign funds for prohibited expenses including parties, golf outings and gambling,” the D.A.’s press release said.

Shirakawa said in his resignation letter, which was broadcast by the county’s office of public affairs, that he will plead guilty to the charges at his March 18 arraignment at the San Jose Hall of Justice. 

Shirakawa, 51, has been under fire since last year, when media investigations revealed that Shirakawa, who was first elected to the county’s board of supervisors in 2008, had inappropriately used campaign funds and failed to file numerous election campaign finance reports. 

Later reports – including an internal county audit – also revealed that since 2009 Shirakawa has repeatedly violated county policies for the use of his taxpayer-funded, county-issued credit card. He has used the credit card to make more than $12,000 in purchases that violated county policies. 

Supervisor Mike Wasserman, who represents the district which includes South County on the board, has endorsed stricter controls over the use of County-issued credit cards, but has previously stopped short of calling for Shirakawa’s resignation.

“It is appropriate that he acknowledged his wrongdoing and is taking full responsibility for his actions by resigning and pleading guilty to the charges,” Wasserman said Friday. 

Shirakawa said in his resignation letter that “for years” he has suffered from depression and a gambling addiction, but he takes full responsibility for his actions.

“Unfortunately, my gambling addiction went untreated for too long which led to bad decisions and actions that I deeply regret,” Shirakawa’s letter said. “I have been in ongoing medical treatment for my addiction and depression… It has been through the treatment process that I realize that I need to accept responsibility for all of my actions. That starts today.”

Shirakawa was elected to represent District 2 on the board of supervisors, which includes downtown San Jose and the city’s east side. 

Prosecutors plan to ask the court for jail time for Shirakawa at the March 18 hearing.

“The public makes political contributions, votes and pays taxes with expectations that their elected officials will work diligently to make this county a better place to live,” Rosen said. “By abusing his power and misappropriating public money that had been entrusted to him, Mr. Shirakawa violated both the law and the faith of the residents of Santa Clara County.”

Board of Supervisors President Ken Yeager said in a response to Shirakawa’s resignation letter that he is “relieved” to hear of Shirakawa’s decision to step down. 

“The Board of Supervisors can now begin the process of filling the vacancy and get back to the important business of the County,” Yeager’s letter said. 

The board now has 45 days to either appoint someone to fill the vacancy left by Shirakawa, or set a date for a special election, Yeager said. If an election is held, it must take place within 120 days of Shirakawa’s resignation Friday. If a runoff is required, the runoff must be held within 56 days of the primary. 

If the board does not decided how to fill the seat within 45 days, the governor will name Shirakawa’s replacement, Yeager’s letter said.