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Sacramento-area leaders agree to pay fines for ethics violations

Elk Grove City Councilman Steve Detrick listens to Elk Grove mayoral candidates at a 2012 forum.
Elk Grove City Councilman Steve Detrick listens to Elk Grove mayoral candidates at a 2012 forum. José Luis Villegas

Sacramento County Supervisor Susan Peters and Elk Grove City Councilman Steven Detrick have agreed to settle ethics cases brought by the state’s political watchdog, according to documents released Friday.

Detrick has run afoul of the Fair Political Practices Commission for the third time in three years after allegedly failing to report information about campaign donors and lenders. It came just four days before an election in which his opponent, Maureen Craft, has challenged his ethics.

Peters violated state ethics laws by voting for the conveyance of land from the Air Force to Sacramento County and from the Air Force to the Sacramento County Office of Education when she owned property nearby, the FPPC found. She further violated the law by approving the demolition of blighted buildings near her property.

She agreed to settle for $9,500, according to the FPPC. The proposed settlement comes 27 months after the FPPC started examining her votes. Peters was re-elected to her fourth term in June.

In a written statement, Peters said she has consistently sought advice from county counsel about her votes on Mather projects and there “was never intent on my part to run afoul of the FPPC rules and I regret making the error. I continue to review items carefully to avoid even the perception of making a similar mistake.”

Detrick did not return a call Friday.

FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga said commission staff members could not comment because the cases are pending until the commission considers them Nov. 17.

Detrick, his wife Janice, and his 2012 council campaign agreed to settle his case for $3,500, according to the FPPC. They failed to identify the employer and occupation of nine campaign contributors, most of whom were developers or worked in related fields.

Detrick previously settled a case with the FPPC in which he acknowledged using campaign donations to pay for his son’s legal bills. He further upset the commission by not paying back the money to his campaign, as he had agreed in a settlement with the commission.

Before then, he settled an allegation of using campaign funds for personal benefit by buying a trip to a Sonoma winery at a fundraising auction.

The FPPC said his past violations heightened the need for full disclosure.

“Due to the nature of Detrick’s past violations, it’s imperative the Committee’s campaign statements be complete and accurate to ensure compliance with the Act,” the agency’s proposed agreement states.

The campaign of Craft, his challenger, sent out a mailer this week that criticizes Detrick for the violations, asking “What’s Elk Grove Councilman Steven Detrick hiding?”

“This is the third strike against Steve Detrick,” said Craft campaign spokesman Patrick McGarrity.

In Peters’ case, the agency cited a Sacramento Bee investigation of votes on Mather projects when it opened its inquiry in July 2014. The Bee reported that Peters cast votes for at least 51 airport-related items over nine years, including millions of dollars worth of infrastructure improvements. Under the regulation then in place, a public official was considered to have a conflict of interest if she or he voted on a project within 500 feet of property she or he owned and could receive any financial benefit from it.

Mather closed for military use in 1993, and the county eventually converted the 5,715-acre property into a complex that includes a commercial airport, business park and golf course. Peters has a financial stake in 17 acres of land and two large office buildings across the street from Mather Airport on Peter A. McCuen Boulevard.

The loudest complaints came from critics of the Mather expansion – residents who live in the flight path of cargo planes flying in and out of the airport. John Kerhlikar said the FPPC agreement was long overdue.

“Justice took its time, but came to the same conclusion that any reasonable person would – Susan Peters voted to improve and enhance her own interests,” he said.

FPPC enforcement officials found that Peters directly benefited by approving the demolition of 15 buildings on the former Air Force Base that “were left in varying stages of disrepair and decay, including mold, mildew and wood rot from leaking roofs and siding.” Three of the buildings were within 500 feet of Peters’ office buildings, which she rents to commercial and government tenants. The demolition work required three separate votes, and Peters approved them each time.

Peters also received benefits from votes that transferred Mather parcels from the Air Force to the county and the county’s Office of Education, according to the settlement document. The agreements called for “less restrictive environmental land use conditions which will allow for more development,” including on her property.

Susan Peters’ settlement:

 

Steven Detrick’s settlement:

 
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