Santa Ana’s Sliding Scale on Disclosure Forms

Councilman Vincent Sarmiento - Photo: Chris Prevatt/LiberalOC

Councilman Vincent Sarmiento – Photo: Chris Prevatt/LiberalOC

The Santa Ana City Council takes great pains to paint itself as running a city government that’s open and transparent.  And the city, at it’s December 16 meeting, voted to not re-appoint Planning Commissioner Phil Bacerra on the grounds he hadn’t disclosed –in writing — all of his ex-parte communications that Bacerra had previously reported verbally during Planning Commission meetings.

You can see the video of this action at this link; go to item 13A or the 56:08 portion of the meeting and its about 15 minutes long.

A quick point to make; Bacerra has completely complied with every form requested of him by deadlines provided.  There is considerable question as to the constitutionality of being required to submit back-dated reports of meetings that occurred prior to the Planning Commission passing a resolution requiring written ex-parte communications.  And in regards to Bacerra’s Form 700, though he is not required to do so because his employer is not based in the City of Santa Ana and does not do business in the city, Bacerra has disclosed his reportable income sources on his Form 700 as required by state law and governed by the FPPC.

The rule is pretty simple:

Officials listed in Gov. Code Sec. 87200 (e.g. boards of supervisors, city council members, planning commissioners, elected state officials, etc.), must report all investments and income as well as real property interests in their agency’s jurisdiction.

 

After more than two-and-a-half months of inquiry from TheLiberalOC, city planning commissioners Eric Alderete and Sean H. Mill have still not disclosed their employment/income statements as required by state law.  The latest form 700s for both men list calendar year 2013 when both men had different jobs than they hold today.  But in both their cases, Mill and Alderete work for organizations that do business in the city of Santa Ana and neither is exempt from disclosing their income on their statements of economic interests.  Disclosure rules are provided by the FPPC here at this link.

We initially contacted the city’s attorney Sonia Carvalho on October 9 to ask why this required information is missing from both commissioners Form 700.  She assigned it to someone on her staff citing a death in the family.  When no one from her office called after a couple of weeks, we contacted her again on November 9.  She said Ryan Hodge, a lawyer for the Planning Commission, would follow up.  Still nothing.  On November 24, Ms. Carvalho wrote back:

“Mr. Mill’s Form 700’s (sic) include disclosure of income from his title company employers over the years.  Mr. Alderete’s Form 700’s (sic) do not include disclosure of income from US Bank.  I am not personally aware of his employment status, but informed him of your inquiry and the FPPC requirements.”

The current Form 700 for both men does not include income disclosures.

We wrote back on December 8 seeking clarity as to why the income/investment disclosure still wasn’t provided for either planning commissioner.  Carvalho wrote back on December 9:

“I have contacted the Planning Commissioners and have advised them of the FPPC regulations regarding Form 700’s (sic).  The forms for each Commissioner are available on the city’s website-very transparent.  Questions about what has been disclosed, and why, should be directed to the Commissioners.  As City Attorney, I do not enforce FPPC regulations.”

We copied City Manager David Cavazos on the email and he responded. “I do encourage all of employees and commissioners to comply with the FPPC regulations and believe that we should make our commissioners aware of any concerns from members of the public or the media.”

The City Council then moved to not-reappoint Bacerra from his position on the Planning Commission.  Council member David Benavides, in the discussion portion, did a fine job of questioning Carvalho about the Form 700 disclosures and Bacerra’s compliance with the disclosures of his ex-parte communication — which we’ll emphasize here is done and completed and on deadline.

Sean H. Mill

Sean H. Mill

Planning Commissioner Sean Mill used the comments section in the New Santa Ana blog to address the issue of his Form 700 disclosure.

Sean Mill

I am thankful to the 5 members of the City Council that supported my reappointment for another four year term on the Planning Commission. It is a great honor for me to represent the citizens of Santa Ana in this capacity and will continue to do what I believe is best for all residents.

Sadly, once again, folks have created a faux controversy in order to attack my nomination. It is unfortunate that 2 members of the City Council carried this water and made allegations based on half-truths and all out distortions of the truth made by an angry out of town blogger.

The false claims that I am out of compliance in regards to the Form 700 were quickly put to rest by the City Attorney and City Clerk. I have met with the City Attorney in her office and spoken to the City Clerk on the phone and both have assured me that I am in compliance. I am quite sure Mr. Benavides knew I was too so I am not sure why he continue to raise the issue.

I would like to share with your readers the email that I sent to Mr. Reyna in regards to his allegations regarding my misuse of the City Seal. I see that you have included a picture from the event in question above and I refer to that in my email to Reyna. I felt that I should respond to these false allegations and set the record straight.

To: rreyna@santa-ana.org
Cc: Mayor, City Council, City Manager
From: Sean Mill

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 11:18PM

Councilmember Reyna,

I watched as you raised the issue of the use of the city logo as your argument in opposing my reappointment to the Planning Commission. I feel that it is important to clarify the facts regarding that before they are continually misrepresented by you and others.

The claim the “I” used the logo is false. The logo was inadvertently used on a flyer created by a graphics designer hired by Charles Armijo with whom I partnered with to host the event. At no time did I have creative control over the design of the flyer and Charles can attest to that. Once I was contacted about the logo and asked to remove it by someone at City Hall it was done so immediately.

The claim that the event was held for my personal financial gain is also false. Neither Charles nor I made a single dime from the event which was held at the Orange County Register. In fact all monies raised, I believe it was between $1500 and $2000, were donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Ana. Feel free to check with them to verify this to be the case.

Finally, I am surprised you weren’t more familiar with the event given the fact that we actually had you speak to the attendees at the event, as did City Manager Cavazos. I have attached a picture from that day to refresh your memory.

I hope this puts to bed the fallacy that I brazenly used the city logo for personal gain in an obvious breach of the code of ethics. If you need help with any more facts about this feel free to contact me, Charles Armijo or the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Ana.

Have a nice evening and a Merry Christmas!!

Sean H. Mill

Well, Mill is wrong about a number of things here the first of which is I’m not an angry out-of-town blogger.  But let’s stick to some material facts:

1.  The city attorney has not determined that Mill, or Mr. Alderete, are in compliance.  All she has stated is that the information on their Form 700s posted on the city website is accurate and that she doesn’t enforce FPPC regulations but has advised both of them about the rules.  In the December 16 meeting, Carvalho reported to the council “it is the position of our commissioners that the forms (Form 700s) have been accurately completed. Those commissioners are signing those forms under penalty of perjury and those commissioners say their forms are correct.”  No where in this statement does Carvalho say she’s authenticated the completeness of the form for full compliance and disclosure.   She also admitted she hasn’t reviewed every form.  So what Mill said is either a lie or a misunderstanding of fact.

2.  The city clerk has not cleared Mr. Mill, or Mr. Alderete, of being in compliance with FPPC disclosures either.  She contacted us on December 23 with this email (we’ve bolded for emphasis):

Mr. Chmielewski,

I wanted to let you know that the document posted on the web is the most recent statement received and completed according to the facts provided by Mr. Mills. (sic)

If you have any other questions, please let me know.

Maria Huizar, Clerk of the Council 

 

No where does she say Mr. Mills is in compliance with FPPC regulations.

3.  While we’re delighted Mr. Mill helped raise $1,500 to $2,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Ana, this event was what’s known as a “lead generation” device designed to sign up more realtor prospects to use the services of Mill’s current employer — a Title Company.  It is very probable that Mill gets a commission check from new business resulting from these qualified leads.  We’ll also note that money raised came from those who attended the event — there’s no evidence Mill made any financial contribution to the Boys and Girls Club from his own pocket.  It’s classy to take credit for a charitable contribution made with someone else’s money.

4.  While Mr. Mill may not have had any creative control over a flyer used to promote the event, its questionable at best that he wasn’t aware the city logo was being used.  The phrase “ask forgiveness, not permission” comes to mind.

****

After having listened to Mayor Pro Tem Vince Sarmiento opine on the importance of disclosure of Planning Commissioners, I think Mill missed something.  Sarmiento described the planning commission as a “quasi-judicial body.”

“The scrutiny of these commissioners is higher than it is for other commissions which are just in an advisory role,” Sarmiento said.  “We hold these (Planning Commissioners) to a very high standard.  If some commissioners are disclosing any economic interest…where council members and appointees to the council have to disclose where the origins of that revenue is coming from, assets that they hold, these things are reportable and they are mandated to us by state law.  I think if all commissioners are doing that, and I believe this commissioner (Bacerra) was given the opportunity to disclose and it wasn’t done, I understand and don’t hold anything personally against this commissioner…there are certain things we expect our commissioner to abide by just because it’s state law.  And if they can’t do that and they’ve been given the opportunity to do that after the fact…., and it still wasn’t done, you start to wonder why aren’t these reportable documents that are mandated, why aren’t they submitted.”

Sarmiento seems to be getting his form 700 and ex-parte communications disclosures mixed up in regards to Bacerra.  But in both cases, Bacerra has fully complied with all disclosures.  And Sarmiento opened the door to reconsidering Bacerra for reappointment.  Since it’s a 4-3 vote, Sarmiento actually holds Bacerra’s fate in his hands.

So now it’s time to find out if Sarmiento will place integrity and honesty over politics.  He’s mentioned, twice, a way for Bacerra to be reconsidered by the City Council for re-appointment seemingly contingent upon the completion of disclosure forms for ex-parte communications.  Those disclosure forms were completed and submitted long ago and Bacerra’s own Form 700 exceeds the disclosures required for a member of the Planning Commission.  Armed with this information, Sarmiento should change his vote to reinstate Bacerra as a planning commissioner if Benavides and Council member Roman Reyna agendize and second his nomination.  What Sarmiento ought to be asking is why his own Planning Commissioner hasn’t disclosed the source of his income on his Form 700.

***

Sal Tinajero

Santa Ana City Councilman Sal Tinajero (Photo: Chris Prevatt)

The biggest surprise of the video was watching Council member Sal Tinajero seem unaware of how substitute motion works.  He placed an item on the agenda for a vote.  Council member Benavides offered a substitute motion which was seconded.  By Roberts Rules of Order, the substitute motion gets precedence over an original motion.  And Tinajero seemed clueless about that.  Surprising since he has been on the council for 8 years now and should have that part down pat.

  14 comments for “Santa Ana’s Sliding Scale on Disclosure Forms

  1. December 27, 2014 at 10:41 am

    How sad.

    It does seem like Santa Ana has taken some steps in recent years to clean up its act and better serve residents. Apparently, a whole lot more must be done to finish the job amd get rid of that fishy smell at City Hall.

    Clearly, I’m trying to be polite today.

  2. cook
    December 27, 2014 at 10:50 am

    How does dirty politics work it way into our sys tem?

    • December 27, 2014 at 11:17 pm

      From those who care more about power than people

  3. Mike Tardif
    December 28, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Sarmiento: “.. there are certain things we expect our commissioner to abide by just because it’s state law. And if they can’t do that and they’ve been given the opportunity to do that after the fact…., and it still wasn’t done, you start to wonder why aren’t these reportable documents that are mandated, why aren’t they submitted.”

    Dan- You are generous to give Sarmiento the benefit of the doubt that he may be confused about the forms. I think he knows exactly he is saying – I question his veracity.

  4. Dan Chmielewski
    December 29, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Vince ought to be asking his own planning commissioner why his form 700 is incomplete.

    The only question I keep asking the city is why are the forms incomplete; what is the legal reason this information isn’t provided. I get crickets. I am deferred back to the Commissioners. But then again, the question is did they commit perjury by not fully disclosing their employment?

    • junior
      December 29, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      I believe that this Form 700 issue would be a violation of State law. Perhaps a complaint to the CA AG is in order.

      • Justin Case
        December 30, 2014 at 11:06 pm

        You can be sure that the DA wouldn’t do anything, and he is the one who has jurisdiction. He seems to be willing to let the statute of limitations run out on Miguel Pulido for his disclosure failures. Why would he chase down a one of Miguel’s pocket puppets.

        http://www.voiceofoc.org/oc_central/article_a1286e58-8fd6-11e4-ac2f-87c61d811ccf.html

        • Dan Chmielewski
          December 31, 2014 at 9:22 am

          It’s actually the FPPC that would investigate; the troubling part is the City can’t seem to answer a simple question or get back to me in any sort of timely fashion.

  5. Mystery Mill
    December 30, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Vincent Sarmiento had no choice but to reappoint Sean H Mill because Sean H Mill has dirt on Vincent Sarmiento. Vincent Sarmiento lives in Orange Park Acres and sends his children to private schools in Orange. Sean Mill has dug this dirt up on Vincent Sarmiento while spending his days down at the Clerk/Recorders office. Careful Vincent, he’s got lots of dirt on you.

  6. Mystery Mill
    December 30, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Hey Vincent. Sean H Mill has questions about all those properties up in Orange Park Acres. Sean H Mill claims that you, Vince Sarmiento, might be a tax cheat hiding everything under your mom or sister Daisys name. Hope for your sake you do as Sean H Mill says or face the music when he drops a dime. Sooner or later he’s going to get you Vincent.

  7. December 30, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Found this nugget online; I guess Sean forgot to tell someone to delete it. Remember, under direct questioning by the city council, he disavowed any knowledge of this new organization:

    September 27, 2010

    PRESS RELEASE

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Art Pedroza, MBA – (714) 606-7622, artpedroza@gmail.com

    Santa Ana Business Association launched to promote businesses in Santa Ana

    SANTA ANA – When local businessman Art Pedroza found out that the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce had rejected his membership application, he didn’t get mad. Instead, he decided to start his own organization to promote Santa Ana’s businesses.

    Pedroza was rejected because he has, in the past, been critical of the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce because they hold events outside of Santa Ana.

    “Why are they holding events outside of our city when they are supposed to be promoting Santa Ana businesses,” said Pedroza.

    Pedroza also contends that the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce is overpriced and does not reach out to Latino owned businesses and small businesses.

    Pedroza is the publisher of the first Orange County political blog, the Orange Juice, which he started in 2003. Pedroza started his New Santa Ana blog last September. Both blogs have proven to be very popular.

    Pedroza says that the Santa Ana Business Association will promote its members on the New Santa Ana blog. The new association will also assist members with matters involving local and legislative government.

    ******The Santa Ana Business Association will also offer the services of former Santa Ana Planning Commissioner Sean Mill, as a consultant. Mill has a degree in political science from UCI. He has been involved in local politics for over twenty years. He maintains close ties with the Santa Ana City Council. Mill is also a previous candidate for the Santa Ana City Council.********

    Pedroza has served on two Santa Ana City Commissions, including the Santa Ana Public Library Advisory Board and the Santa Ana Housing and Redevelopment Commission. Pedroza ran for the Santa Ana City Council in 2008, when he tallied over ten thousand votes. This year he is a candidate for the Santa Ana Unified School District’s Board of Education.

    Pedroza is also a safety consultant, whose work has been featured in the O.C. Register. He served as the President of the Orange County Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers last year. He specializes in loss control and has experience in retail, manufacturing, food production, refineries and construction. Pedroza plans to assist his members with safety issues, in addition to helping them promote and grow their businesses.

    Find out more about this new organization at http://santaanabusinessassociation.com/. Pedroza may be reached at (714) 606-7622 or via email at artpedroza@gmail.com.

    ###

  8. David Vasquez
    December 30, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    It sounds like this whole issue has devolved into an “inside baseball” blog war.

    I want to know which commissioner has business interests with which applicants PERIOD.

    I am in favor of REMOVING THEM ALL and starting over.

    As for the charges about Sarimento’s residency, those are REAL, serious and have been rumored for years (just as Carlos Bustamante’s sexual escapades were) and are largely ignored. If the Costa Mesa POA can plant a GPS on a councilmembers jeep, maybe someone should do the same to Vince’s Lexus.

    His Mother is on record having blurted out “I’d never send our kids to THOSE schools, which explains why Vince and Daisy went to Foothill.

    DON’T FORGET WHO PUT VINCE INTO POWER.

    • December 31, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      Its not a blog war per se, but when you’re leading a posse on disclosure, perhaps it’s wise not to be a hypocrite. Drive by Vince’s house in Santa Ana — the lights are on and someone’s home. And its easily one of the nicest homes you’ll find in the city.

      • David Vasquez
        December 31, 2014 at 5:39 pm

        In deed it is among the top ten “nicest” houses in Santa Ana. But, that’s not the point. My question is this: Does he reside there. Maybe it doesn’t matter, if he turns out to be a good leader. But, I can tell you as someone who lives nearby and does “drive by” there several times per day, the place looks like a prop.

        This stuff usually fixes it self, sometimes with a nudge, this will too.

        Happy New Year to You, Your Family and Readers.

Comments are closed.