The National City Chamber of Commerce has apologized for getting mixed up in accusations against National City Councilman Jerry Cano.

While waiting to see if her alcohol permit would be approved, the owner of a small market accused Cano in a letter of telling her that the owners of a liquor store across the street who opposed her permit had contributed to his campaign. The implication was that if the woman similarly donated to Cano’s campaign, the woman’s permit might be approved.

Cano denied the allegations in a letter from his lawyer threatening a defamation lawsuit to the market owner, Susana Maza, and to the National City Chamber of Commerce, which had advocated on Maza’s behalf.

His lawyer also denied the allegations to VOSD in an e-mail.

“Mr. Cano never solicited any contribution, monetary payment or other exchange of value in return for his assistance,” wrote Victor Torres, Cano’s attorney.

At public hearings, representatives from the chamber spoke in favor of a permit for Maza’s market, Gama Produce, which was ultimately denied. The letter from Cano’s attorney also said that the chamber’s CEO, Jacqueline Reynoso, had broadcast the accusation from an official chamber e-mail account.

The chamber sent Cano and his lawyer an apology letter for getting involved in the matter.

“Ms. Reynoso was merely acting under the strict belief of assisting a chamber member in alignment with the National City Chamber of Commerce’s mission as she would have generally assisted any other chamber member,” reads the letter. “Ms. Reynoso did not act with malice or with any ulterior motive. Ms. Reynoso extends an apology to your client for her actions and involvement concerning this matter.”

The letter also said Reynoso would refrain from getting involved with anything connected to Maza’s letter moving forward.

The chamber’s attorney declined to comment on the apology letter and the ongoing issue.

Maza has not responded to the letter.

Torres said in an e-mail that he suspects “Ms. Maza is allied with folks who sympathize with and support Mr. Cano’s political opponent in this election.” He said he finds the fact that there were two letters delivered on the same subject suspicious. The fact that representatives of the Chamber of Commerce read the letters and accusations at public hearings and helped disseminate them “smells very bad.”

Maza denied that allegation.

“I have no motivation to hurt him,” she said in Spanish.

Torres said he was glad to see the apology letter from the chamber, but he is continuing to investigate Maza and the chamber in relation to the incident. He isn’t concerned about how the accusations will affect Cano’s re-election campaign.

“I do not believe the campaign has been affected one lick,” he said.

Maya Srikrishnan

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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