FPPC: Sarmiento Broke Regulations Gets Warning and No Fine

Councilman Vincent Sarmiento - Photo: Chris Prevatt/LiberalOC

Back at the end of September last year I wrote about possible violations of the Political Reform Act by Santa Ana City Council members Vincent Sarmiento and Claudia Alvarez when they voted in January of 2011 on their appointments to outside boards that provide compensation. On February 1, 2012, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) released their investigation findings regarding a complaint filed on the matter. Their investigation confirmed that Mr. Sarmiento did violate a provision the Political Reform Act.

The FPPC has completed it’s investigation of this case , and found that you violated section 87100 when when you voted to appoint yourself to Transportation Corridor Agency at the January 18, 2011 Santa Ana City Council meeting.

Your participation in the vote to reappoint yourself… violated the [Political Reform] Act’s financial effects provision because it was foreseeable the decision would affect your personal finances by $250 or more in a 12-month period. However, because the decision did not affect your personal finances by a significant amount, you have no history of enforcement actions by the FPPC, you were very cooperative in the FPPC’s investigation of this matter, and you made every attempt to reduce the public harm as a result of the violation as soon as you became aware you may have violated the Act, we are closing this matter with a warning letter.

This letter serves as a written warning. The information in this matter will be retained and may be considered should an enforcement action become necessary based on newly discovered information or future conduct. Failure to comply with provisions of the Act in the future will result in monetary penalties of up to $5,000 for each violation. Read the complete letter here.

In the case of Sarmiento it appears that the interests of justice are best served with the warning letter. Other elected officials who vote on appointments to outside boards should make note of the warning Sarmiento has received, and make sure they do not vote on their own appointments. We are still waiting to hear what will happen related to the complaint made against Councilwoman Alvarez.

UPDATE: FPPC: Warning and No Fine for Alvarez Violation of Regulations

  6 comments for “FPPC: Sarmiento Broke Regulations Gets Warning and No Fine

  1. Greg Diamond
    February 3, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Seems like a good exercise of discretion on the FPPC’s part.

    • February 4, 2012 at 8:59 am

      Agreed. The sad part is that if the complaint hadn’t been filed they would not have done a thing to correct the violation. The City Attorney seems to hold the general perspective that unless a regulatory agency says there is a violation, the “Great City Council of Santa Ana has done nothing wrong.

      Our city hall sources tell us that the council was told to correct the violation after the City Attorney spoke with the FPPC after the complaint was filed.

  2. junior
    February 4, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Headline for upcoming election mailer – “Sarmiento found guilty of election violation.”

    • February 4, 2012 at 8:55 am

      Doesn’t bode well for Alvarez. For Martinez, Tinajero, and Benavides, since they corrected the violations, that headline would be a bit more difficult to justify.

  3. laveradad
    February 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    The worse headlines will be: (1) Sarmiento lives in Orange Acres, not Santa Ana; (2) the police ignore the problems at my family’s club/bar.

  4. Greg Diamond
    February 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Do you mean “Orange Park Acres”?http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_Park_Acres,_California

    I had no idea of this before now, but let me ask: are you saying that Sarmiento is doing something illegal or? Or is it more like “his family lives in Orange Park Acres but he rents a place in Santa Ana for voting purposes”? If the latter, voters may dislike it but it’s is not illegal.

    The “leave the bar alone” thing, if true, could go either way.

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