Santa Ana To Try A Do Over to Fix Alleged FPPC Violations

Claudia Alvarez

Santa Ana Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez (Photo: Chris Prevatt)

Sometimes when cities and districts screw up on things like Brown Act violations all they have to do is do the thing over again the right way. That is the strategy they applies last October when they conducted a revote on a change in fees charged to professional soccer leagues for the use of city fields. Council members Martinez and Tinajero had accepted campaign contributions from the league that pays those fees and should not have voted on the matter. They took the vote over again and corrected that conflict of interest. 

Around the same time the City had to hire an outside attorney to advise them on what to do because Martinez and Tinajero had voted on the Station District project after accepting contributions that prevented them from voting on the matter. That time they decided to simply not do anything because they would likely be sued because they would not have been able to approve the project without the conflicted votes.

Vince Sarmiento

Santa Ana City Councilman Vince Sarmiento (Photo: Chris Prevatt)

On the agenda for Monday’s Santa Ana City Council meeting is item #60A: REAPPROVAL OF CITY COUNCIL APPOINTMENTS TO OUTSIDE BOARDS. The recommended action is “Reapproval of appointments to serve on outside boards by the City Council for which compensation or a stipend is provided.” This is the the Council’s way of trying to get Alvarez and Sarmiento out from under Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) complaints that they voted on their own paid appointments to outside boards in violation of state law. While a symbolic gesture, this action will not repair an FPPC violation. There are no do-overs allowed to correct FPPC conflict of interest violations.

FPPC regulations actually specify that elected officials may not vote on their own appointments to outside boards. If a vote has a material affect on the financial interests of an individual elected official they have violated the regulations. Retaking a vote after the member has received a benefit doesn’t fix the violation.

§ 18705.5. Materiality Standard: Economic Interest in Personal Finances.

(a) A reasonably foreseeable financial effect on a public official’s or his or her immediate family’s personal finances is material if it is at least $ 250 in any 12-month period.

(b) The financial effects of a decision which affects only the salary, per diem, or reimbursement for expenses the public official or a member of his or her immediate family receives from a federal, state, or local government agency shall not be deemed material, unless the decision is to appoint, hire, fire, promote, demote, suspend without pay or otherwise take disciplinary action with financial sanction against the official or a member of his or her immediate family, or to set a salary for the official or a member of his or her immediate family which is different from salaries paid to other employees of the government agency in the same job classification or position, or when the member of the public official’s immediate family is the only person in the job classification or position.

It is nice to know however that when it comes to conflicts of interests, we’ve got their attention.

  32 comments for “Santa Ana To Try A Do Over to Fix Alleged FPPC Violations

  1. Santa Ana Resident
    September 30, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I guess no do over for Beth Krom either. She is as guilty as the others, right guys?

  2. Al Simmons
    September 30, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Well, that seems like a pretty solid admission of guilt right there.
    If mayor pro tem Alvarez and council member Sarmiento were confident that they were in the right on their previous votes, they would stand by them.
    Instead, the item appears on the agenda to revote, so it’s clear even they and the city attorney must think that those original votes are improper.
    Once again, the city council in Santa Ana is trying to just sweep their improper behavior under the rug. This has become a pattern and practice for them: Do something wrong, and try to back door a fix later.
    I hope the does FPPC investigate this complaint fully and takes this seriously. I know several of the residents do.
    The Santa Ana city council’s practice of hiding the wrongdoing and taking a second vote when they do something wrong absolutely needs to stop. We’ve never had a council before with this many blatant issues, and disregard for the rules.
    Unless oversight agencies like the FPPC, Grand Jury, Attorney General, etc., start forcing this council to do things right, we won’t see these city council members change and start doing the right thing on their own. They have proved that time and time again.

  3. ocmartiniman
    September 30, 2011 at 11:38 am

    (1) Pure political window dressing.
    (2) It will be interesting, as they will necessarily have to identify every single appointment by date, position, and person beng appointed for the record to be clear. Every single appointment will then have to be reviewed for FPPC violation.
    (3) How is the council going to address these violations of the ethics code by its authors, Sarmiento and Alvarez?
    (4) How is the council going to address the fact that the City Attorney is OBVIOUSLY incapable of understanding and advising the council on both FPPC Conflict of Interest violations and the Santa Ana City Council’s own Code of Ethics and Conduct?
    (5) Santa Ana Citizen: Not the sharpest tool in the shed, are you?

  4. Santa Ana Resident
    September 30, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    martiniman it is you that doesn’t appear to be too bright. My comment was spot on in regards to Krom.

    Are you wanting us to believe that it is illegal for Alavarez and Sarmiento but not for Krom?

    Be honest with yourself, because fairminded people see there in no difference between what happened in Irvine and Santa Ana.

  5. Santa Ana Resident
    September 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Dan C. thanks for posting my comments even though you won’t admit that if Alvarez and Sarmiento are guilty so is Krom.

    • September 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm

      That is up to the FPPC to decide. What I will admit to believing is that Ms. Alvarez uses inappropriate language and references and many people excuse this because English isn’t her first language. I also don’t think an ADA makes over $200 an hour. My friends in Boston who are Jewish and followed the coverage are convinced she is anti-Semitic. I’ve asked if she’s attending services for the high holidays anywhere; haven’t heard back.

    • September 30, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      I don’t appreciate you suggesting your comments here are being deleted. I justed checked our queue and there’s nothing from you in the trash

  6. Santa Ana Resident
    September 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Dan C. this has nothing to do with the remarks made by Alvarez or if she is attending services at the local synagogue. Why are you injecting that argument into the FPPC complaint discussion?

    It is plain and simple, if Alvarez and Sarmiento did wrong, so did Krom. Why can’t you admit that?

  7. September 30, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Reading comprehension issue sir? The FPPC will decide this. There is no complaint filed against Krom. If one is filed and investigated, we’ll write it.

  8. Santa Ana Resident
    September 30, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    No reading comprehension problem here. It is simply hypocritical of this blog to attack only Alvarez and Sarmiento when others including your friend Krom have done the same thing.

    If the FPPC does rule against one they should rule against all. The only reason a complaint was filed was because this blog asked someone to do it.

    Whether a complaint is filed or not the facts show Krom did exactly what you guys are going after the 2 in Santa Ana for. You said it yourself that they can’t vote for their own appointment. Why won’t you admit Krom did just that?

    • Santa Ana Resident
      September 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm

      Hey other Santa Ana resident:
      Maybe you didn’t notice, but the story is about two council members in Santa Ana that are under investigation by the FPPC.
      Beth Krom is an elected official from Irvine. At this time, no complaint is filed against her, so she is irrelevant to this discussion.
      If you feel such a desperate need for someone to do a Beth Krom story, I’m sure you can do that on your blog.

    • Repulsed
      September 30, 2011 at 5:54 pm

      Dan and Chris
      Please, please, don’t let “Santa Ana Resident” turn this into, *that other blog* It is an annoying distraction from the real issues pertaining to this story.

      • Dan Chmielewski
        September 30, 2011 at 7:35 pm

        I think paul Lucas and Sean mill need to stop being the blog trolls they are.

    • September 30, 2011 at 7:33 pm

      If Beth, or the other Councilmembers in other cities did the same thing, then it is in my opinion a violation of the statute. If someone wants to file a complaint I’m happy to write about it.

      This entire thing started because the two folks who wrote Santa Ana’s Code of Ethics, acted unethically regarding Alvarez’s rebuke. Alvarez violated standard conflict of interest rules when she voted to give herself a lesser punishment, Sarmiento’s motion.

      The explanation was that since there was no direct financial interest, Alvarez could vote. That caused me to look and see if she had voted on matters that benefitted he financially. Since her appointment to the OC Water District board was identified as a possible option for punishment, that was the first place I looked.

      The lesson here is when you act unethically, people look deeper into what you are doing. It’s not like this is the first time Alvarez has voted on something she shouldn’t have.

  9. cook
    September 30, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    I am glad that the city if Santa Ana is taking remedial actions to correct for the possibility of a mistake having being made. (Its up to the state agency to rule on the issue in question)

    Where as some may feel that blaming others for prior actions, or other cities for questionable action that have, (or may have) occurred elsewhere.

    At least the leaders in Santa Ana have heard the warnings and are taking action to correct course.

    Those who have moved to correct this and those who have called out the warning of possible violations are both to be commended for helping to improve an imperfect system .

    • September 30, 2011 at 7:36 pm

      As I’ve said, it is a symbolic gesture. One which may help reduce some of the penalty that could be issued.

    • OC Martini
      September 30, 2011 at 9:43 pm

      Regretably, I cannot agree. I believe this is simply a politicasl smokescreen, and there are many gullible people (sorry, Cook, no disrespect meant) who unfortunately do not see it for what it really is.
      This is not simply an FPPC Conflict of Interest issue. It is also a direct violation of the clearly written Code of Ethics and Conduct adopted by the City Council, and written by two council members who are also lawyers: Alvarez and Sarmiento.
      The Preamble to the adopted Code of Ethics and Conduct states:

      The people of the City of Santa Ana, at an election held on February 5, 2008, approved an amendment to the City Charter of the City of Santa Ana which states: “The City of Santa Ana shall adopt a Code of Ethics and Conduct for
      elected officials and members of appointed boards, commissions, and committees to assure public confidence in the integrity of local government elected and appointed officials.”
      The rules go on to state: RESPONSIBILITY/PROTECTING THE PUBLIC’S INTERESTS

      • OC Martini
        September 30, 2011 at 9:45 pm

        RESPONSIBILITY/PROTECTING THE PUBLIC’S INTERESTS

      • October 1, 2011 at 12:29 am

        Good points. If they truly wanted to fulfill their responsibilities they would have made sure they were familiar with and followed the law. Of course, they were familiar with the law in this case. They just couldn’t have been bothered to follow it in the first place.

        Got Ethics?

        • Repulsed
          October 1, 2011 at 7:59 am

          For those who may not know, the origin of Santa Ana’s Code of Ethics was tainted. Orginally a citizens group was brought together by the CITY encouraging input on election reform. That group agreed that what was really needed was TERM LIMITS for the MAYOR. After Pulido realized what had been decided, he immediately started to micromanage and retool the decision. The result was, EXTENDED terms for council and the CODE OF ETHICS.Neither of those items had proposed by the committee! With Pulido’s skill at conning the general public, he stated with the COE in place we would never again have to worry about a bad councilperson, we now had protection. Sadly, enough folks believed the blatant lies and Measure D was passed

          • junior
            October 2, 2011 at 12:15 pm

            Pulido and his motley crew also promised that Measure D would keep developers out of city hall – what a sad joke on SA voters!

  10. Jeff dickman
    October 1, 2011 at 7:40 am

    Councilwoman Alvarez must know (after almost 12 years on council) the duties and responsibilities of being a council person. I suspect she also knows where she mis-steps even before she does so. She and most of the other city council has, for so many years now, pressed the limits of unethical behavior that it regularly tends toward illegal activity.

    With few real threats to their authority Alvarez and most of the council members routinely violate their own code of ethics and seem unable to lead the community. Instead they dominate the community.

    Councilwoman Alvarez will leave office with little or no real legacy of furthering the goals of the community, which now seem wholly lost to her. Instead she will be remembered as a hateful, ill tempered soul determined to beat her foes instead of embracing her community and the ethical commitments she is bound too serve under.

    I’ve said many times that that a key affliction to our nation is the failing of local leaders. Our leaders seem to always looking for a deal or a pay-off. They have become insulated and distant from their community and their duty of service. Our council and mayor spend their days correcting mistakes, fighting with the public or themselves. Distrust and anger is the flower of their service to the city.

  11. cook
    October 1, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Smoke screen or not, doesn’t matter, action to correct the vote should be done by the council.

    Like Art P said on that other blog, “all the cities have been doing this for years” (paraphrase)

    It is about time that one council break away from the pack, admit mistakes have been made and take the proper actions to correct it.

  12. October 1, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Cook-
    As Joe Walsh said years ago – “you can’t argue with a sick mind”
    It is blatantly obvious that you could absolutely care less, or even understand what the issue is here. You ignore the obvious, and then try to frame a pile of poop in a gold frame and call it “Art.”
    This council is not trying to “break away” from anything – just covering up their ass – which left the pile of poop in the city council chambers in the first place.

  13. Cupid
    October 1, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Hey Sean Mill. We checked Match.com for you. Unfortunately even fat ugly chicks don’t want anyone who still lives at home with his mommy

  14. cook
    October 1, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    OC Martini says “It is blatantly obvious that you could absolutely care less, or even understand what the issue is here.”
    ============
    “Martini” we could stand back to back and looking out in front of us describe two difference cities, even though we would be standing next to each other. Difference points of view.

    I don’t see Santa Ana’s city council as my enemy, so that does color my point of view.

    I can only guess that you view that same council as your enemy, and explains why you use a synonym as your handle.

    ** looked to the FPPC for any update, none for this issue, but did fine one that was similar.

    Jan Horton, as a member of the Yorba Linda City Council, impermissibly made a governmental decision in which she had a material financial interest. $3,000 fine

    • October 2, 2011 at 10:34 am

      Good point on the Jan Horton matter. I mentioned it in my post on the 28th.

      There is no doubt that the alleged violations by Alvarez and Sarmiento meet the standard of materiality.

    • October 2, 2011 at 11:14 am

      (1) Don’t view the City Council as an enemy. This is non-partisan. I am a taxpayer and resident of Santa Ana, this is my council, and I have the proper expectation that they follwo the law and their own ethics code.
      (2) I am opposed to anyone violating the FPPC and the Code of Ethics and Conduct.
      (3) I have what I think is a reasonable expectation that if a City Council member writes the Code of Ethics and Conduct should understand what they write and vote to implement. Do you find this an unreasonable expectation?
      (4) If the City Council member who writes the Code of Ethics and Conduct is also an attorney, the electorate should hold them to a higher level of expectation as to their ability to understand and follow what they wrote. Why? Specialized education in the law and authorship of the “law” in issue as the author thereof. Do you find this unreasonable?
      (5) I believe the City Council should have the integrity to call a foul a foul. We expect our children to admit and own their mistakes, why should we expect less of our elected officials, especially when it is so blatant?
      (6) Whether Beth Krom or Jan Horton, Vince Sarmiento or Claudia Alvarez, it is wrong. Why do you defer the issue as if to say “Everyone does it – it is no big deal?” why do you act as a apologist?
      (7) It is a pseudonym not a synonym. What is Cook – a name or profession? If a name, why not use all of it?

  15. junior
    October 2, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Pulido and his motley crew also promised that Measure D would keep developers out of city hall – what a sad joke on SA voters!

  16. cook
    October 2, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Sorry for the mistake in “pseudonym not a synonym”, Cook is my name.’

    Item 6, I quoted another as an example (of what is wrong) looks like I was not clear on that.

    I agree with you on 1,2,3,4,5.

    Is there another way for the vote to be corrected other than taking another vote?

    Should the prior vote be subject to a fine, looks that way to me. Will the FPPC fine them?

  17. October 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Cook,

    There is no way to correct such a mistake after it happens. This is not one of those things that has a do over remedy, like the Brown Act.

    It is likely they will be fined, as will anyone else who has such a complaint filed against them if there is a material benefit. A material benefit is $250 a year.

  18. Bitchy Vince
    October 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Nice how Vince is letting Sean Mill run cover for him. Be a man Vinny! Stand up for yourself.

    Will you and the rest of the council get up and leave when Chris Leo gets honored for cheating on his wife with a co-worker tonight? Someone get a picture of Leo with Carlos Bustamante please!!!!!

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