Attorney Mark Thiel Makes First Court Appearance Since Indictment in Stockton, CA

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Attorney Mark Thiel, who served on the county school board for 16 years, recently was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly receiving nearly $50,000 from the San Joaquin County Office of Education

Attorney Mark Thiel Makes First Court Appearance Since Indictment in Stockton, CA

STOCKTON — Attorney Mark Thiel, who served on the county school board for 16 years, recently was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly receiving nearly $50,000 from the San Joaquin County Office of Education during a period when he was ineligible to serve because he was living outside the district he was elected to represent.

Thiel made his first, brief court appearance Friday afternoon. His next appearance is scheduled for Aug. 27.

The Thiel indictment was handed down July 27. A spokesperson for the San Joaquin County Office of Education said Friday that Thiel provided full reimbursement on Aug. 3, and the San Joaquin County District Attorney confirmed that the money had been repaid.

“We received word that restitution in the amount of $48,966.81 was paid in full,” the D.A.’s Office said in a statement Friday afternoon. “The District Attorney’s Political Integrity Unit strives to end political corruption and works every day to ensure that each individual is treated equally under the law.”

The majority of reimbursement by Thiel was for the cost of medical benefits he received during the time he was ineligible to serve.

The matter of political ethics has arisen because the first reports of whether Thiel had unduly collected funds from SJCOE came up during his unsuccessful campaign for a judgeship two months ago.

“Mark Thiel faithfully served as a trustee for the San Joaquin County Office of Education for 16 years,” Thiel’s attorney, N. Allen Sawyer, said in a written statement Friday. “He moved 2 streets outside his district during the last year of his last term. He received health benefits and a minor stipend but no salary compensation.

“When this address discrepancy became an issue in his campaign for judge, Mark immediately rectified it and offered to pay the County Office of Education any monies they thought they were owed. He has already made full reimbursement.”

Thiel abruptly resigned as an SJCOE trustee on April 4, two months before losing his judges race to Commissioner John Soldati. Thiel did not comment Friday, but in an article in The Record in May, he said he was the victim of political maneuvering by his opponent’s campaign.

“It is unfortunate my opponent tries to jump on this to sway voters,” Thiel said in May. “It casts a shadow on the bench. We look like nothing more than common politicians.”

Soldati has not responded to Thiel’s remarks.

Officially, Thiel is charged with grand theft of personal property over $950, and obtaining money, labor, or property under false pretenses. Sawyer said he will “vigorously fight” the charges against his client.

Spokesman Zachary Johnson said in May that Thiel never disclosed to the SJCOE that he was moving outside of District 2, in Linden, and into a house in District 5, 11 miles to the north on Tokay Colony Road.

Thiel has said he lived outside District 2 for about one year before discovering his error, at which point he immediately resigned from the SJCOE board.

Sawyer said the controversy that engulfed Thiel explains why some people are reluctant to enter politics.

“This will have a chilling effect on people becoming involved in public life,” Sawyer said. “These charges are misplaced.”

Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or rphillips@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @rphillipsblog.