Former Poway assemblywoman one step closer to Consumer Affairs post

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Copley News Service

SACRAMENTO — The Senate is poised to confirm former Poway Assemblywoman Charlene Zettel as the state’s top consumer watchdog.

The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday unanimously endorsed Zettel for director of the Department of Consumer Affairs, brushing aside complaints that her legislative record was soft on business.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Zettel will be in charge of regulating and licensing more than 230 professions – protecting consumers from unscrupulous car dealers, barbers, contractors, podiatrists and undertakers.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named Zettel, a fellow Republican, to the $123,255 a year post in March.

Zettel served two terms in the Assembly before losing a 2002 Senate primary election to Dennis Hollingsworth, R-La Mesa. She owns and manages rental units in the San Diego area and had served on the regional airport authority.

“I have an overwhelming record of protecting vulnerable victims,” said Zettel, citing measures she carried to address elder abuse and identity theft.

Some consumer advocates attacked her record, claiming she fought financial privacy safeguards, beefing up car lemon laws and reining in lenders who prey on the poor.

“She prefers business at the expense of consumers,” said Doug Heller, of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

Zettel said she has fought to continue the Office of Privacy Protection, based within her department. And, her department has just adopted regulations making recreational vehicles subject to lemon laws.

Democrats, including Sen. Dede Alpert of San Diego, embraced her.

“I know she can do the job and will do the job,” Alpert told the committee.

The San Diego County sheriff and district attorney also rallied behind Zettel.

Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood described Zettel as a champion for victims of elder abuse, sweepstakes scams, unlicensed contractors and telemarketers.

“This is not a spur of the moment thing on her part … I’ve known this for eight years,” Greenwood said of her views.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said Zettel has “always been inclusive, open, even-handed and a straight-shooter. That’s all you can ask for.”

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