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County Ethics Commission Vote Headed for June Ballot


 This news release was issued by Orange County this afternoon.

(Santa Ana, CA) — Local voters will be asked on the June 7 ballot to form an Orange County Campaign Finance and Ethics Commission and to make related changes to the County Campaign Reform Ordinance after action Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors. 

“Elected officials have a responsibility to follow the rules when it comes to campaign finance and government ethics. This ballot measure will help fix compliance issues caused by common errors and help education candidates and elected officials through training and advice, with enforcement penalties implemented in the most serious cases,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Todd Spitzer, Third District, said. “The Ethics Ordinance increases oversight and compliance.” 

Establishing a local County commission would require changing a law approved by voters last year permitting the County to contract with the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for civil enforcement of county campaign laws with legislative approval. 

“We’re back to solving this ourselves because the state Legislature has refused to allow a truly independent agency, the FPPC, to enforce our local campaign laws,” said Supervisor Shawn Nelson, Fourth District. 

Supervisor Andrew Do said the proposed ballot measure would provide for enforcement and assure that candidates receive guidance in a confidential manner. “The goal of this proposal is to help candidates follow the rules, which can be confusing,” Supervisor Do said. “Most people want to do the right thing.” 

Vice Chair Lisa Bartlett, Fifth District, agreed the ballot measure is appropriate, saying, “It is important to have the voters weigh in on how they want oversight enforced in Orange County.” 

The ballot measure also would ask voters to approve a charter amendment giving the executive director of the proposed Orange County Campaign Finance and Ethics Commission the legal authority to subpoena the bank records of candidates for county offices. 

Orange County’s landmark campaign reform ordinance, known as TINCUP for “Time is Now Clean Up Politics” was approved in 1978 and amended in 1992. TINCUP regulates campaign contribution limits (currently $1,900 per candidate per election cycle) and other campaign activity for County elected officials, including the offices of Supervisor, Assessor, Auditor-Controller, Clerk-Recorder, District Attorney-Public Administrator, Sheriff-Coroner, Treasurer-Tax Collector and the Superintendent of Schools. 

Earlier this month, supervisors reviewed the recommendations of a special committee evaluating the establishment of a local ethics commission and directed County attorneys to prepare ballot language for consideration by voters. Supervisor Michelle Steel opposed placing the measure on the ballot.