LiberalOC has learned that complaints were filed last week with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) regarding the votes taken by Santa Ana City Councilmembers Claudia Alvarez and Vince Sarmiento that appear to violate state law. The complaints cover votes by Alvarez and Sarmiento that I mentioned in my post on September 12th It’s a Question of Ethics.
Alvarez voted to reappoint herself to the Orange County Water District Board on January 4, 2011; a position from which she earned $30,000 in 2010. The matter was agenda item 13A.
Sarmiento voted to reappoint himself to the Transportation Corridor Agency on January 18, 2011; a position that pays $120 per meeting. That matter was agenda item 13B.
In both cases the votes were unanimous votes on consent calendar business. Unfortunately for Alvarez and Sarmiento, that doesn’t matter when it comes to Government Code §§ 87100 which states:
No public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making or in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest.
Last week former Yorba Linda Councilmember Jan Horton was fined $3,000 for similar improper votes. In Horton’s case, her votes were on matters that affected areas within 500 feet of property she owned, and the decisions were unanimous.
No decision has been made yet by the FPPC as to whether they plan to take action on the complaints. That decision should come within the next week. In addition to state law, their votes appear to also violate the city Code of Ethics and Conduct. Municipal Code: Code of Ethics and Conduct adopted June 2, 2008, second bullet.
RESPONSIBILITY/PROTECTING THE PUBLIC’S INTERESTS
- I do not accept gifts, services or other special considerations because of my public position.
- I excuse myself from participating in decisions when my or my immediate family’s financial interests may be affected by my agency’s actions.
- I do not give special treatment or consideration to any individual or group beyond that available to any other individual.
I asked Interim City Attorney Joe Straka on Friday morning about the legality of these votes. By Friday evening he seemed to not have any idea and asked for a little time to “look into this.”
It appears that folks over at New Santa Ana blog have gotten a hold of an email that I sent to a few people in response to a question they had about how to file a complaint with the FPPC. That is the context in which I sent my email.
Because I know a bit about the process of filing such complaints I was asked if I would provide in writing what people would need to do to file a complaint. I understood that those requesting the information would likely want to share that information with their friends who felt the same, hence the title: So would anyone like to file a complaint?
Because I had been asked if I would file the complaint I specifically noted that I could not do so because I did not want to make the news. But knowing that someone might actually do so, I asked to be notified if one was filed.
I did not see the need to disclose that I answered a question that assisted someone in the filing of a complaint. But since Sean Mill over at New Santa Ana blog has chosen to make a big deal of it in order to distract from the fact that Alvarez and Sarmiento likely broke the law, here’s the email text:
Subject: So would anyone like to file a complaint?
Given the outrageous actions of Claudia and Vince in voting for their appointments to paid boards, in violation of both state law and city code, would any, or all, of you be interested in filing complaints with the FPPC.
I cannot do it because it would be me creating the news.
To file a complaint you would need to complete and submit the complaint form located on this page: http://www.fppc.ca.gov/index.php?id=498. A separate complaint needs to be filled out for each elected official.
Claudia voted to reappoint herself to the Orange County Water District Board on January 4, 2011. A position from which she earned $30,000 in 2010. The matter was agenda item 13A. http://www.ci.santa-ana.ca.us/coc/documents/cc_minutes_20110104.pdf
Vincent Sarmiento voted to reappoint himself to the Transportation Corridor Agency on January 18, 2011, a position that pays $120 per meeting. That item was # 13B. http://www.ci.santa-ana.ca.us/coc/documents/cc_minutes_20110118.pdf
By filing the complaint under your name you will be notified of any action taken.
Please let me know if you are filing the complaint. This is the only way these morons will be held accountable.
In hind sight, calling Alvarez and Sarmiento morons was probably a bit over the top. They do not seem to meet the definition of a moron. They are not idiots, they’re attorneys. As the authors of the City Code of Ethics they knew, or had to have known, exactly what they were doing when they voted for their own financial benefit.
I’m sure Claudia will call it a “Horrible Accident” or something like that. Vince will probably claim that his oversight was proportional to the amount of money he would get as a member of the TCA.