FPPC Complaint: Alvarez and Sarmiento voted to benefit personal financial interests

Claudia Alvarez - Photo: Chris Prevatt/LiberalOC

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.

Councilman Vincent Sarmiento - Photo: Chris Prevatt/LiberalOC

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.”

Author’s Note:

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.

Thanks,

Chris Prevatt

————————————————

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.

  17 comments for “FPPC Complaint: Alvarez and Sarmiento voted to benefit personal financial interests

  1. Get a clue
    September 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    The last point *I do not give special treament or consideration to any individual or group beyond that available to any other individual*

    OMG Pulido and Co have been trampling over that point since Mike Harrah came to town. Whether you like OBP or not Harrah has had the benefit of a very special set of rules since the begining. Everything he touches needs to be “managed” by Pulido. From signage issues at Original Mike’s, to not ever writing the check for the special election (upwards of 200,000 dollars) to asbestos removal from 10th and Broadway etc, etc, etc. The list is endless

    Please, folks it would be fun to start a list of every incident of “special” treatment you can think of, don’t just limit it to Harrah

  2. OC Martini
    September 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Another distraction?
    NOt only is it a clear violation of State law, but as Chris points out a violation of the very Ethics Code that SARMIENTO and ALVAREZ, WHO ARE BOTH ATTORNEYS, WROTE!!!!! The fact is that the ethics code is part of the Charter, and violation of the Charter is a misdemeanor. So Alvarez and Sarmiento, both attorneys, committed misdemeanor violations of a Santa Ana law THEY wrote to impose ethical restrictions on their OWN CONDUCT. Is conflict of interest too comlicated for them to understand?

    Violation of the charter is supposed to be enforced by the City Attorney, Straka. If he cannot figure out whether this violates the City Charter, let alone state law, one has to wonder where his duties and loyalties lie: the City of Santa Ana, or the people who voted to give his interim job. Whos is that? Alvarez and Sarmiento. Wow. No wonder they are so flagrant in their violation.

  3. September 28, 2011 at 1:48 am

    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.

    Thanks,

    Chris Prevatt

    ——————-

    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.

  4. September 28, 2011 at 7:16 am

    Wow, we were lectured about journalism ethics from Sean Mill. That’s a first.

    Sean should rename his post “Out of Context.” There was a slew of emails from multiple sources asking Chris for help. He simply sent one email to everyone who asked questions and answered it with a new email. Without the originals, your email can easily be taken out of context.

    I’ll note Sean is hardly an objective party. Chivas doesn’t seem to know that Santa Ana is negotiating with them, the city looks like they are $30 million in the hole (and I’ve heard as much as $60 million), and all I ever get from Sean is how “great” the city council majority is….I have to wonder if Sean asked those same journalists why no one ran with the anonymous emails from Carlos Bustamante’s alleged mistress?

    I especially like Sean’s description on a blogger or a journalist, which is Art’s defense for many things.

    Of course, I’d post this over at New Santa Ana but Art would likely delete it or edit is has he has in the past.

    So Art and Sean, we stand by our story and we stand by helping residents of the city with answers to questions about what to do. We apologize to Sarmiento and Alvarez for the “moron” comment.

  5. Repulsed
    September 28, 2011 at 8:34 am

    I would like to file also
    Is it too late?
    Does it work like a petition, where more is better. There are so many good people out here looking for relief from Claudia

    • September 28, 2011 at 7:31 pm

      Anyone may file a complaint regarding possible violations of these laws. It appears that there may be instances of violations in numerous cities in Orange County. The FPPC primarily engages in investigations only when complaints are lodged. They do not have the resources to investigate proactively every coity and district in the state.

  6. Michele is unemployed
    September 28, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Can someone ask Sean Mill if it’s unethical to accept cash from the Pulido, Tinajero and Martinez campaigns for positive blog coverage and get rewarded with a planning commission post?

  7. Santa Ana Resident
    September 28, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I thought it was great that Chris was able to explain to the residents how and where to go to file complaints.
    After seeing the Santa Ana city council make such bad choices and do so many unethical (and potentially illegal) things, many of us have been feeling pretty helpless as far as making them accountable. Having someone be able to simply explain the proper process is a huge help to help empower the residents to demand accountability from the elected officials.
    Thanks to knowledgeable people willing to share that knowledge, at least the residents will be able to decide for themselves whether a complaint or filing is warranted, and now they will know how to follow through.
    If the city of Bell had had someone to help them, their situation might not have gotten nearly so bad.

  8. fighting on their terms
    September 28, 2011 at 11:01 am

    This council does not want to do what’s right, the wants to do what they can legally get away with. The citizens of this City deserve better. This is the only recourse the community has. These FPPC complaints are justified and appropriate. Chris is not the enemy, Chris knows his stuff, more so than most of us reading this blog, offering that knowledge as a resource for the public that has continued to be ignored by the elected body is not a crime (which is all that matters to Santa Ana City Council) and not unethical. Good job Chris.

  9. Michele is unemployed
    September 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Sean is such a troll who continues to use his title company’s resources to research public records on his enemies. If I were Chris or Dan, I’d check my credit scores for soft inquiries from Sean’s title company. Sean is in denial about how badly his city is run. He is someone destined to die alone and angry

  10. Nicole catlett
    September 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Someone tell Sean he needs to buy more clothes for his UNLV loser friends. I think Destiny has outgrown her bike

  11. September 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I spoke with Andrew Galvan of the Register about this earlier today to provide more context to Chris’s email; he says Sean emailed a simple question about journalism ethics and was surprised that Sean used his comments for a story. There was no indication from Sean that he was going after us by reaching out to Galvan.

    Andrew actually believes we could have filed the compliant ourselves directly without any ethical qualms.

    That said, I’m amused by this comment written by Sean in the post:
    “Obviously they have an axe to grind with certain folks and they use their blog to carry out their vendettas”

    I have to ask, does Sean even read New Santa Ana?

  12. September 28, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    I guess Sean Must be on a break at work again…I’ll take a shot at answering the questions he poses

    Sean Mill says:

    September 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    “TheLOC has responded. See Prevatts comment at the end of his post.”

    Prevatt has indeed responded and his response was disingenuous at best. It looks like he get caught with his pants down and now he is trying to furiously spin this in another direction.

    Prevatt claims that his email was simply in response to emails he was receiving from Santa Ana residents. To that I say:

    1) Produce the emails from these folks with a date a time stamp.
    ***sure, do you want to produce the hard drive we need for discovery to proceed with the lawsuit; some of the folks of the email have replied in kind here already on this Sean…

    2) Why is the subject line, “Would anyone like to file a complaint?” instead of “How to file a complaint”?
    ***Because those writing asked TheLiberalOC to file the complaint; Chris turned the subject around on them.****

    3) Why in the body of the email does he ask, “would any, or all, of you be interested in filing complaints with the FPPC.” According to him they already said they did in emails to him, asking this is a bit redundant.

    ***Yes, it’s redundant. And it reaffirms the point of the email. To encourage them to file a complaint instead of us******

    4) Explain why my sources at city hall and in the city clerks office say only he made inquiries into this matter. If others were interested in filing complaints wouldn’t they have made inquiries?

    ****what are you doing nosing around into matters that do not concern you? Many who have contacted us do not trust staffers at city hall (thought I have had several positive experiences with many of them and most don’t like how certain city council members willingly throw them under the bus from time to time*****

    5) Shouldn’t Prevatt have disclosed in his post that he helped these folks file the complaint that he was reporting on?

    ***Yes, he should have, but its not that big a deal; should “admin” at NewSantaAna disclosed he was bought and paid for to write positive posts about the city council during the last election cycle?*****

    It is quite obvious that Prevatt did not think that this email would be made public and now that it has he is trying to spin it. His attempts to explain it just dig a bigger hole for this self-proclaimed journalist.

    ***actually, you misrepresented your question to Andrew Galvan who believes we could have filed the complaint without it being unethical. Chris answered questions honestly. The bigger question, why are you defending a clear violation of the city’s code of ethics?****

    • September 28, 2011 at 7:32 pm

      For the record Dan, the requests I received were verbal and not in written form. No emails to turn over.

  13. Henry Lipton
    October 4, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Am I seeing things? What happened to all the comments I left regarding Beth Krom and this exact same issue and behavior?

  14. Henry Lipton
    October 4, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Never mind. I just seent he correct post. For some reason I didnt see it earlier. But after reading your reponses to my questions Chris, I got to ask..Are you serious?

Comments are closed.