Culture Gap Led to Bribery Case, Woman Says

     SAN MATEO, Calif. (CN) – A spa owner says in court that she was charged with bribery and lost her business license for practicing a Chinese custom of giving thank-you gifts.
     Baoying Qi says she worked with San Mateo building inspectors and other county officials while renovating her Menlo Park business, Oriental Spa. As a native of China naturalized that same year, Qi allegedly followed her native custom of giving gifts to those who provided services to her business.
     Qi says she gave movie theater gift certificates to employees and contractors, as well as Rose Erdozaincy of the San Mateo County Health System; Leslie Talley of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department; and Mike O’Connell and Daniel Kumler of the San Mateo Building Department.
     County officials returned the gifts, with a note explaining that they could not legally accept the offers.
     Shortly after Qi mailed her customary movie passes to O’Connell and Kumler, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office charged Qi with the four misdemeanor bribery counts.
     The San Mateo County Licensing Board allegedly revoked Qi’s business license after she pleaded no contest to four counts under California Penal Code 67.5, which covers bribing of a state, county or city official.
     The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors upheld the decision, so Qi has now petitioned the San Mateo County Superior Court for a writ of mandate.
     Chief Deputy County Counsel John Nibbelin told the Palo Alto Daily News that the no-contest plea did not affect the board’s decision.
     “The Board of Supervisors was specifically advised by its counsel that, while it could not use the no contest plea as an admission in the revocation hearing process, the board could inquire into the underlying facts that gave rise to the plea and revoke Ms. Qi’s license based on the voard’s own review of the facts,” Nibbelin told the Daily News.
     In her petition to the San Mateo County Superior Court, Qi stressed that the San Mateo Board of Supervisors and Licensing Board incorrectly based the decision to revoke Qi’s business license on her plea.
     The writ alleged that “The California Supreme Court and Section 1016(c) of the California Penal Code prohibit use of misdemeanor nolo contendre pleas as a basis for the disciplining of license holders.”
     Qi is represented by Christopher Sun of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Capital Law Group.

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