SANTA ANA, CA — On Monday, May 7th the Santa Ana City Council is set to consider the repeal of a city ordinance that prohibits them from soliciting or receiving campaign bucks, or loans of more than $250 for three months following their vote. The current law, Section 425, is in addition to the current California law prohibiting them from voting on projects benefiting campaign contributors for twelve months following a contribution.
They’re considering changing the rules so they can collect campaign cash after their votes without restriction.
According to the staff report for Agenda Item # 50, “by approving the proposed ordinance the City of Santa Ana is removing a restriction, not required under state law that unfairly affects Santa Ana Council candidates running for state or other elected office.” Currently the only member of the City Council seeking state or other elected office is Michele Martinez, who is running for State Assembly.
Pay to Play
The staff report neglects to mention that by approving this ordinance they make legal, the actions of Michel Martinez from two years ago, when she took $2,000 from the architect, developers, and developers agents after her vote on the $40 million Station District project.
Two years ago Council member Michele Martinez got caught violating both the state and local laws. As I reported in my September 2010 story More ‘Pay to Play’ in Santa Ana – Michele Martinez in hot water over Station District vote:
On June 7, 2010, Councilwoman Michele Martinez made the motion that paved the way for the continuation of the City’s stalled Station District Redevelopment Project. Mayor Pulido, Council members Alvarez and Sarmiento abstained from participating in discussions about, and voting on, the matter due to conflicts. In order for the project to move forward, all four remaining members of the Council had to vote in favor of moving the project forward. The resolution passed on a 4-0 vote.
Michele Martinez cast the 4th and needed yes vote to give roughly $40 million in land and redevelopment $$$ to Related California/Griffin Realty Corporation as the master developer for the Station District. According to her campaign finance report for the period ending June 30, 2010, she received a $500 campaign contribution from Griffin Realty Corporation on April 2, 2010.
On June 15, 2010, Martinez reports a $500 contribution from William Witte, the President of Related California. On June 25th, Martinez reports a second $500 contribution from Griffin Realty. On June 30th, Martinez reported a second $500 contribution from William Witte. In total Martinez accepted $2,000 in campaign contributions from the developers running the Station District Redevelopment Project. $1,500 of those contributions came within 30 days of her illegal vote to move the project forward.
The Orange County Register reported that “Councilman David Benavides also received $500 in the month after the vote from a company called Empire Building. Business records show it is affiliated with – and managed under – Voit.”
The repeal of the current ordinance makes all of the Station District scandal, none of which involved contributions to campaigns for state or other elected office, legal.
Santa Ana’s History of Corruption
The ordinance in question was passed in 1996, two years before former Councilman Ted Moreno was arrested in an FBI sting for corruption in a vote selling scheme. Coincidentally, Moreno was using his position to raise money to help out his allies in an attempt to take over control of the City Council so that he could stop the development of Santa Ana’s now vibrant Artists Village. Moreno, was obsessed with preventing the project which he said “he was afraid that Santa Ana’s multimillion-dollar effort to convert portions of its struggling downtown into an arts district was attracting gays and lesbians–a trend he found troubling.”
Freedom of Speech
Some people contend that the current law is really useless because the previous City Attorney determined that it was not possible to enforce it because it was too vague and infringed on “freedom of speech.” If that is the case, then a stronger ordinance is required, not removing it all together.
Members of the Santa Ana City Council do not sit in their positions as a stepping stone to higher office as the staff report suggests. Their role is to serve the best interests of their constituents, not to collect “Success Fees” for their votes.