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FPPC Finds 12 Probable Election-Related Violations by Santa Monica Council Member

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

January 9, 2018 -- An investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has found a dozen probable election-related violations of state law by Santa Monica Council Member Pam O’Connor and her re-election committee.

The violations stretch from 2013 to 2017, the FPPC’s enforcement division said in a November 29 staff report to the Commission.

The report found probable cause that O’Connor violated the Fair Political Practices Act seven times by failing to file either pre-election or semi-annual campaign statements in a timely manner.

O’Connor also failed to timely pay legally required fees five times, or each year between 2013 and 2017, the investigators said.

On Monday, O’Connor said she was contacted by the investigators “a couple of months ago" about the violations and is working with them to resolve the case.

She said all of the counts are a result off a “snafu” with a 2013 campaign bank account she and her committee failed to realize hadn’t been closed as she embarked on her 2014 re-election bid.

“We’d moved on,” O’Connor said. “It’s been there, untouched, in limbo. Nothing going in, nothing going out.”

A change in election law required candidates to obtain new election ID numbers beginning in 2014, she said. She did so, and has been using it since then for all fees and required filings.

She said she also switched to using a professional treasurer, because the law was becoming too complex for a volunteer to handle.

The FPPC contacted her late in 2017 about the violations it had found, which she said brought the forgotten and unused account -- which had about $875 in it -- to light.

Because the account was open, the FPPC thought it was part of an active campaign failing to keep up with election law,” she said.

“The fees have been paid now,” she said.

Those found to have violated the regulations can reach a settlement with the agency or challenge its findings before an administrative law judge and to go to Superior Court with the administrative judge’s ruling, said FPPC spokeman.Jay Wierenga.

Any settlement would need final approval from the Commission itself.

Fines for such violations range up to $5,000 per count, Wierenga said.

He said these cases can involve a months-long process.

O’Connor has been on the seven-member council since 1994 and is up for re-election this November.

The FPPC is a five-member independent, non-partisan commission that oversees the Political Reform Act, which regulates campaign financing, conflicts of interest, lobbying and governmental ethics.


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