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 2, 2012, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) released their investigation findings regarding a complaint filed on the matter. Their investigation confirmed that Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez 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 the Orange County Water District at the January 4, 2011 Santa Ana City Council meeting.
Your participation in the vote to reappoint yourself to the Orange County Water District at he January 4, 2011, Santa Ana City Council meeting 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.
As in the case of her colleague Vince Sarmiento who received a similar warning on February 1st, it appears that the interests of justice are best served with the warning letter. While the position Alvarez voted on paid her in excess of $30,000 a year, a warning letter is common for first time violations of FPPC regulations.
The most regrettable part of this saga 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 City Council has done nothing wrong. Our city hall sources tell us that the council was told by the City Attorney to correct the violation after he spoke with the FPPC following the complaints being filed.
Elected officials who vote on appointments to outside boards should make note of the warnings received by Santa Ana Council members Alvarez and Sarmiento, and make sure they do not vote on their own appointments.