Cortez Quinn

The Public Eye: FPPC reviews teachers union's donation to Twin Rivers trustee Quinn

Published: Sunday, Apr. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Apr. 7, 2013 - 7:10 am

Twin Rivers Unified School District board President Cortez Quinn was fined once by the state's political watchdog agency. Now he faces additional scrutiny for paying at least part of his initial fine with a donation from the teachers union.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission is reviewing whether a recent $7,000 contribution to Quinn's campaign from the Twin Rivers United Educators' political arm was inappropriate, according to Gary Winuk, enforcement chief for the FPPC.

Lisa Gant, treasurer of the union's political action committee, confirmed to The Bee that her organization donated the money in February to help Quinn pay a $14,000 fine levied by the FPPC.

When asked whether the payment was appropriate, Winuk said, "It depends."

"The fine he got was more of a personal issue, instead of a political purpose … ," he explained. "(The donation) has to be spent for a political or campaign purpose. We will look at it."

The fine was issued by the state watchdog agency in February after it found the school board trustee illegally accepted $55,000 in personal loans from a district employee in 2010 and 2011 without reporting them on financial disclosure statements.

He also illegally accepted a gift of $4,000 from the same district employee, Sherilene Chycoski, according to FPPC documents. Chycoski filed a paternity suit against Quinn in June 2011.

The Political Reform Act prohibits elected officers of local government agencies from receiving loans of more than $250 from employees and gifts of more than $420.

At the time, Quinn also was the district director for Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, another position that required annual financial disclosures.

Three of the five violations outlined by the FPPC were related to Quinn's job with Dickinson. Two stemmed from his position as a board member for Twin Rivers Unified.

At a March 2 meeting, Twin Rivers United Educators President John Ennis vehemently denied allegations the union had given Quinn a personal loan.

Ennis later told The Bee the union's PAC had given Quinn's campaign a contribution of $7,000, although he didn't know exactly when it had been made.

The teachers union and its political action committee are separate entities, Ennis said. "The filings and paperwork are not in our union office," he said.

Ennis said he didn't mention the $7,000 donation to Quinn's campaign at the March 2 school board meeting because it "is a public record and (critics) can look." He said the payment was a contribution and not a loan.

The union's PAC supported the campaigns of current board members Quinn, Rebecca Sandoval, Michael Baker and John Dexter in the June election. It paid between $9,800 and $11,200 to each of their campaigns in 2012, according to documents filed with the county.

Quinn garnered an additional $7,000 in February "to help pay for the fine he received," Gant said Thursday.

Despite that donation, Gant said Quinn did not appropriately handle the personal funds for which the FPPC fined him.

She said the union isn't likely to offer monetary support to Quinn again. "If he's running again, we would endorse him, but we would not financially back him," she said. "We're helping him once. You can't expect us to keep cleaning up your messes."

The Bee reported in May 2012 that Quinn had accepted illegal loans. Two weeks later, he won a second term as a Twin Rivers trustee and was voted school board president by fellow board members in July.

Quinn's troubles with the FPPC will again be a topic of discussion at a Twin Rivers Unified school board meeting on Tuesday.

School board members Baker, Sandoval and Linda Fowler asked for a censure hearing against Quinn in a letter to the superintendent. The letter states that they plan to ask the board at Tuesday's meeting to set a public hearing on the matter at a future date.

"The thing is, it all came out before election time," Gant observed, saying she was offering her own views, not the union's. "I think it is a power play (by other board members). Everybody knew what was on the table when it was set."

Gant said board members should not be concerned about what the union PAC does with its money. "They weren't concerned when they were taking our money," Gant said. "(And) they would have gladly taken our money if we would have given it to them."

This is the second time that members of the board have tried to remove Quinn as president.

The board voted at the March 5 meeting to discuss the matter on March 19, but district officials said the board had not followed protocol. The censure letter was meant to rectify that.

Call The Bee's Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Read her Report Card blog at http://blogs.sacbee.com/report-card/.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Diana Lambert



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