The Fair Political Practices Commission voted 3-0 Thursday to impose an $18,000 fine against Sacramento-based Sutter Health because it failed to report paying $270,000 for lobbying services between April 2015 and June 2017.
The commission could have imposed a penalty up to $45,000, but investigators found no evidence that the health care giant intended to conceal its violations. Rather, Sutter’s nine violations of the Political Reform Act were likely a result of negligence, said the case order filed by David Bainbridge, the FPPC’s assistant chief of enforcement.
“But the violations are part of a pattern where Sutter continually failed to file reports timely over two plus years despite being aware of its obligation to do so,” Bainbridge wrote in the case file.
Sutter Health said in a written statement: “The appropriate reports were filed as soon as we were made aware of the gaps between filings. We accept full responsibility and are in the process of paying the fines.”
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When assessing fines, the FPPC considers the seriousness of violations, intent, the pattern of behavior and the respondent’s actions when apprised of potential violations.
Sutter had filed lobbyist employer reports as far back as 1998, the FPPC order said, so it would have been aware of its obligation but failed to comply even after the case was referred for enforcement. The public damage was minimized, however, because the lobbying firm, Platinum Advisors, disclosed the payments in its reports, records showed.
When paid, the $18,000 will go into the state’s general fund.