George Shirakawa Jr. once counted on Santa Clara County taxpayers and campaign contributors to be his benefactors, as he spent public money and campaign funds on luxury rental cars, gambling junkets, vacations and lavish dinners for staff and political allies. Now, it seems, high-profile developer John Vidovich has assumed the role of financier.
In a report filed Wednesday with the county Registrar of Voters, the George Shirakawa Legal Defense Fund lists just one donor in the first six months of the year: a $10,000 contribution from De Anza Building & Maintenance, Inc. The committee filing notes that the same denomination was then given to John Williams, Shirakawa’s attorney in a case that already has resulted in the disgraced former county supervisor pleading guilty to five felonies and seven misdemeanors related to his misuse of campaign funds. Shirakawa is also facing another, unrelated felony charge, and he has hired defense attorney Jay Rorty to represent him in that case.
While De Anza Building & Maintenance, Inc. has a relatively low profile, the Secretary of State’s website lists Vidovich as the owner. A former employee of the company says it specializes in land use and development deals involving everything from mobile home parks and large apartment complexes to wine vineyards and pistachio farms.
Vidovich said in a voicemail message that he gave the money to Shirakawa because he empathizes with the former supervisor’s struggle with addiction. Prosecutors say Shirakawa created a secret bank account to funnel campaign contributions and conceal his gambling addiction.
“I think George has an addiction,” Vidovich said. “He’s a good person. Addiction controls you and he doesn’t really have a lot of support system, so I’m just trying to help him out a little bit,”
The developer could not be reached for follow-up comments, but the new charge against Shirakawa has cast some doubt on whether his illegal activity was exclusively fueled by addiction. Shirakawa allegedly took part in a fraudulent political mail scheme to attack Magdalen Carrasco, who was running for a San Jose City Council seat against former Shirakawa staffer and now Councilman Xavier Campos.
A little more than a week after Vidovich gave money to Shirakawa’s defense fund, a story in the Mercury News reported that the developer planned to contribute.
“I’m proud of my relationship with George, and I will do what I think is appropriate,” Vidovich said. “George is disorganized and he is sloppy, but he is effective for his district—and his district is not well-off.”
On Tuesday, voters in District 2 elected Cindy Chavez to take over the vacant county supervisor seat.
Two years before Vidovich’s comments to the Merc in February, the Board of Supervisors appointed him to the county planning commission. “That appointment, recommended by Supervisor Dave Cortese, a high school chum, was called ‘unfortunate’ by one local environmental group,” the newspaper reported.
The Los Altos developer had previously served as a county planning commissioner in the ’90s after being appointed by then-Supervisor Ron Gonzales, who later became mayor of San Jose.
According to the committee filing, Shirakawa still owes $609.90 to legal firm Henry C. Levy & Company, which has taken over filing duties for the former supervisor.