At the heart of things, according to county prosecutors, are Councilman Jim Ayers and developers Stephen Holgate and Robert Osborne. Prosecutors say the developers funneled a combined $200,000 in campaign contributions through a variety of intermediaries into Ayers’ unsuccessful 2006 campaign for Assembly and his successful 2008 council re-election bid.

Ayers was among the councilmembers who voted to approve projects for both developers, including a 700,000-square-foot shopping center and a 464-unit apartment building and storage facility for Holgate, and two small housing subdivisions and an office complex for Osborne. Ayers also voted for a final tract map for Holgate three years after agreeing to buy a house in the subdivision. Earlier this year, Ayers, who works for the Riverside County Economic Development Agency, abstained from voting on a proposal to rezone 13 acres owned by Holgate to “general commercial” along the route where a freeway is proposed. The three other indicted city officials – Mayor Dale Stubblefield and Councilmen John Mansperger and James Potts – did vote for the rezoning, which greatly increased the value of property the county may need to acquire for the freeway project.

It is not illegal for an elected official to vote on matters affecting campaign contributors. The question is whether the developers hid the source of campaign funds that exceeded the limit for an Assembly election, and whether the developers received improper favors in exchange for the funds.

A new citizen group has formed to collect signatures to recall the four indicted officials.