Grassroots Resources CEO Jesus Cardenas appears at a fundraiser. / File photo by Vito di Stefano

Councilman Stephen Whitburn’s chief of staff has left City Hall in the wake of a scandal surrounding a political consulting firm he continued to operate while working for the city.  

Whitburn confirmed Tuesday that Jesus Cardenas has departed his post overseeing the District 3 City Council office. His last day was Monday. 

“Jesus shared with me recently that he intended to pursue another opportunity in the private sector,” Whitburn told Voice of San Diego. “While he has since left my office, I appreciate his two years of service to the city and wish him all the best.” 

The departure follows Cardenas’ commitment earlier this year to Whitburn that he would shut down his consulting firm following the downtown councilman’s public ultimatum that Cardenas make a choice between his business interests or City Hall.

Cardenas chose his business interests.  

“I made the decision to step down from my position in order to pursue new opportunities,” he said in a text. “Given the recent political climate, I want to put all of my energy and effort into electing Democrats and supporting issues that uplift our community and address the complex challenges facing our region.” 

For years, Cardenas has been a controversial figure in Democratic Party politics. 

In 2019, progressive activists accused him of creating and controlling political clubs in South Bay that existed only on paper to steer endorsements toward his friends and clients. Cardenas denied that, but the party ended up strengthening its rules for club accreditation and suspending a dozen of them. 

Both he and his sister — a Chula Vista City Council member — have been dogged more recently by conflict-of-interest complaints. After helping Whitburn win his 2020 District 3 election, Cardenas went to work in City Hall, while continuing to own a stake in his consulting firm, Grassroots Resources, which billed clients.  

Cardenas insisted that he did not receive financial compensation from any entity doing business in front of the city. But as the scrutiny grew, Cardenas in February promised to close his political consulting firm, the Union-Tribune reported.  

He said he is still closing Grassroots Resources, and will soon announce the new opportunities he is pursuing.

“It has always been my intent to return to consulting and given the recent political news, campaigns are starting earlier than normal,” he said.

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

Jesse Marx

Jesse Marx is Voice of San Diego's associate editor.

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  1. Why does Whitburn have a chief of staff? He can’t think of enough parks and libraries to give away to homeless drug addicts on his own?

    Do we even want a city council? We certainly do not need one.

    1. You must never have worked for an elected official because you obviously have no idea of the amount of work involved in holding office. There is no way that one person could do the work of governing and also respond to individual constituent’s concerns, make all the speeches that she/he is invited to make, and answer all the communications that she/he receives. I admire people who answer the call to public service.

  2. A very small part of the story. Also, this was first reported by Jackie Bryant and there is so much more. Keep digging.

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