By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor
October 27, 2018 (El Cajon) -- An extensive background check on Joel Anthony Scalzitti, the challenger running against El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, shows that the local politician and businessman has been awash in legal problems and tax liens.
The Scalzitti family is synonymous with politics in San Diego’s East County. August “Augie” Scalzitti has been a member of Padre San Municipal Water Board for over 20 years and is credited by troubled El Cajon City Councilman Ben Kalasho as being an inspiration for him to run for politics. Augie Scalzitti’s son, Joel, 47, is past president of the Helix Water District, currently is an elected member of the district's board of directors and now wants to be mayor of El Cajon.
East County Magazine actively sought to interview Scalzitti for our news site and our radio show on KNSJ-FM. He stated via phone that he was too busy for an interview and did not respond to email inquiries sent to him.
In a conversation in late September, Scalzitti said, “You don't know how tired I am. I get up at 4 a.m. and I'm running two businesses and I'm starting a third and I’m on the water board.”
A comprehensive investigation by ECM of publicly available court and government documents shows incumbent Bill Wells had only one legal issue involving a medical billing dispute which, according to Wells, was resolved.
But Scalzitti has a vast quantity of past legal challenges including nearly 100 released tax liens brought on by the City of El Cajon, the County of San Diego, and the State of California.
Scalzitti runs “Mary’s Donuts” in downtown Lakeside and in Santee, and along with his wife, Kelly, owns a water truck business for street and highway construction projects.
Real Estate License Woes
Scalzitti applied for a California Department of Real Estate license in May 2002. But the application was challenged by the DRE after a background check determined that he was found having made a false statement on his original application for the license on a question whether he had been ever convicted of a felony. Scalzitti answered “no.”
According to a DRE court filling, Scalzitti in 1997 (when he was 27) was found guilty of “moral turpitude” for driving a car without a driver's license. (“Moral turpitude” is legally defined as "an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community.”)
Scalzitti agreed to a stipulation and waiver as a part of a plea agreement admitting guilt, which allowed him to only possess a restricted real estate license for two years through 2006. He continues to have a “limited” real estate license, according to California Department of Real Estate officials, because he not legally associated with any local real estate broker of real estate firm, as mandated by California State Professional Code.
Scalzitti was involved as a salesperson with Century 21 All Service real estate brokerage in El Cajon, owned by PCG&S Group, Inc., a defunct real estate brokerage which closed its doors in February 2017.
Water Board Problems
When Scalzitti ran and won his first political office in 2000 for a position in the Helix Water District board of directors, he was sued by his challenger, La Mesa insurance broker and Helix Water District board member, John B. Linden in 2002. Linden contended that Scalzitti had no right to sit on the board because he did not live within the confines of the boundaries of the Helix Water District which he was set to serve. (View court document)
After some legal wrangling which eventually led the California Attorney General to weigh in on the issue in May 2002 declaring that Linden’s complaint was valid, now retired El Cajon Superior Court Judge William J. Howatt ruled on Oct. 16, 2002 that Scalzitti was ordered to be ousted from the Helix Water District Board of Directors and reimburse the district for all of the per diem payments in the amount of $51,646.84 made to him. The order was later vacated as the court determined that it lacked legal authority or precedent to impose a reimbursement/restitution. Linden, however, was awarded $76,000 in attorney’s fees.
In his decision against Scalzitti, Howatt wrote in the introduction, “President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “It is character that counts in a nation as in a man. A lie is no more to be excused in politics than out of politics.” Howatt continued to write, “it is unfortunate that this Court must address both the character and the mendacity of Scalzitti to reach a conclusion in the present matter.”
In the conclusion of the order, Judge Howatt wrote that “a public office is a public trust and those who assume a public office should not do so for personal advancement or private advantage. Public office is a unique opportunity in a democratic society to serve one’s community in the fulfillment of a public trust. This service cannot begin with a deception.”
Scalzitti made another run for the Helix Water District Board in 2012, ten years after he was ousted from the position by Judge Howatt and won. He now serves as president of the board.
Liens, liens, liens and more liens
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, a search of San Diego County Tax Assessor’s records found that Scalzitti has had several liens against him from 2012, 2013, and 2014, for taxes owed on personal property fixtures. According to county records, he did not pay them until Oct. 8th. A tax bill due on Aug. 31st for $742.61 was paid by Scalzitti’s wife on Oct. 11th.
The Scalzittis still owe $846.27 (including interest penalty) for a 2017 tax bill.
In all, the Scalzittis have had 99 tax liens released against them issued by local, county, and state government entities including numerous sewer and tax liens filed by El Cajon, the city he wants to lead as mayor.
Ties to troubled El Cajon City Councilman Ben Kalasho
Reflecting his long-time friendship and association with Ben Kalasho, Scalzitti has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Ben Kalasho’s “San Diego East County Chaldean Chamber of Commerce” before Kalasho was forced by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to change its name in June 2017. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board held that the trademark caused confusion with the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce based in Detroit, which has been using the name since 2001.
Claims of fiscal responsibility
On his campaign website, Scalzitti says he is running for mayor to reduce homelessness and crime because “I can’t sit idle and watch our sales tax dollars go to neighboring cities and watch our property values erode. I am invested heavily in this community both personally and through my businesses. I’ve balanced multi-million-dollar budgets and carry a huge payroll. I’ve invested in my city and now I ask that you invest in me.”
Follow Paul Kruze on Twitter and Facebook: @PaulKruzeNews