Natomas trustee fined for not reporting free meals

01/22/2014 5:50 PM

01/22/2014 5:51 PM

Natomas Unified School District board member Lisa Kaplan has joined a list of California school officials who have been fined for receiving free meals from a bond advisory firm without disclosing them, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Kaplan allegedly accepted two meals with a total value of $138 in 2009 without reporting them. The state Political Reform Act requires public officials to report meals or other gifts received in excess of $50.

The FPPC investigation began after bond writers were asked to share their records. The political watchdog agency determined that only a handful of public officials who received gifts had properly reported them.

Kaplan said she was originally investigated for more than $300 in meals but was able to prove she didn’t attend most of them. “I looked at the places and I knew I hadn’t been there,” she said Wednesday. “Two were on the same date” – one in San Francisco and one in Los Angeles.

The longtime board member said she does not recall attending a 2009 dinner hosted by bond adviser E.J. De La Rosa & Co. at Ella Dining Room and Bar in Sacramento, but had no way to prove it and decided to pay the $200 fine.

“Maybe I made a mistake and forgot about it,” she said.

Kaplan joined four other Sacramento-area officials – 93 statewide – who were fined as a result of the investigation. The four Sacramento-area officials fined last year include Sacramento City Unified trustee Diana Rodriguez ($400), former Sacramento City Unified trustee Roy Grimes ($200), Sacramento County Board of Education trustee Brian Rivas ($200) and former Roseville City School District board member Rene Aguilera ($200).

Most of the 93 people fined after the statewide investigation serve on school district boards. But the FPPC also cited representatives from cities, college districts, water districts and a redevelopment agency.

Kaplan was among 18 officials still being investigated when the bulk of the fines were announced. She and six others were fined this month.

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