The Fair Political Practices Commission hopes to break a month-long stalemate today over Tina Baca Del Rio, a Commerce councilwoman who repeatedly failed to file financial disclosure forms with the state.
Baca Del Rio first appeared on the political watchdog’s monthly agenda in July facing a proposed fine of $104,000. It was one of the highest FPPC fines ever proposed against a local elected official.
The FPPC found evidence to support 24 counts against Baca Del Rio for violating the Political Reform Act. The violations included transferring more than $8,000 from her campaign committee to her personal bank account and using campaign money to buy stuff at Lowe’s and Wayfair for her kitchen renovation.
Baca Del Rio ignored repeated notices from the agency, making it a default case. In default cases, the agency often suggests the highest possible fine as a way to draw violators to the negotiating table.
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On the day of the July meeting, Baca Del Rio showed up at the FPPC office on J Street. She provided evidence to lower the number of violations and agreed to pay a reduced settlement of $55,000 on 12 counts.
The case was held over until the August meeting, where something unusual happened. Commissioners Maria Audero and Gavin Wasserman rejected the lowered fine, while Chair Jodi Remke and Commissioner Patricia Wynne voted in favor of it. The tie-breaker, Commissioner Eric Casher, was not present.
In an extensive discussion, the dissenting commissioners said they wanted to make more of an example of Baca Del Rio, a repeat offender who blatantly violated the law, and send a message that the agency takes cases seriously. They thought the lowered counts and weaker fine would let her off too easily.
Remke said the fine was appropriate compared to similar violations and considering that Baca Del Rio agreed to a settlement, which guarantees payment that can otherwise be difficult to obtain in default cases.
A handful of Commerce residents drove nearly 400 miles to Sacramento to attend the meeting, begging the agency to give Baca Del Rio the highest possible fine. The town’s mayor, Ivan Altamirano, faces his own FPPC fine of $15,500 for appointing his sister to the city planning commission and committing other violations.
All five commissioners are expected to vote on Baca Del Rio’s proposed fine today.
WORTH REPEATING: “If you get an email from John Burton without any F-bombs, it's probably a Russian hacker.” – Paul Mitchell, political consultant, noting the California Democratic Party chairman’s penchant for colorful language
GRITO DE DOLORES: Mexico’s Independence Day is Sept. 16, which marked the start of a war to end three centuries of Spanish rule. The party officially kicks off tonight. Revelers will gather on the West Steps of the Capitol at 6 p.m. to celebrate with music, dance and food. Expect Martin Alcala Salgado, Deputy Consul General of Mexico in Sacramento, to give “El Grito,” a war cry originally issued in the town of Dolores in 1810, around 8 p.m.
ZIKA SCARE: The Zika virus is a growing concern among Californians, 210 of whom have been infected with the illness during travels to other countries. Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Azusa, will discuss state efforts to control the virus at an informational town hall meeting at the Los Angeles Central Library at 10 a.m.
BY THE NUMBERS: The California Teachers Association this week put another $2.5 million into the campaign to pass Proposition 55, the November measure that would extend, until 2030, higher income taxes on the wealthy approved in 2012. The contribution brings the union's investment in the pro-extension effort to almost $16.5 million, out of almost $46.1 million raised from Jan. 1, 2015 through Tuesday. The biggest donor to the effort is the California Association of Hospitals: $25 million through Tuesday, state filings show.
CALIFORNIA HEALTH: Capitol Weekly and the UC Center are co-hosting a day-long conference focused on the state of health care in California. The agenda includes four panel discussions on Medi-Cal, upcoming ballot measures, patient care and political forces pushing health care legislation. The conference begins at 9 a.m. at 1414 K Street. Tickets cost $199.
RAPE ON THE NIGHT SHIFT: Janitors will return to the Capitol today to pressure Brown on signing AB 1978, a bill aimed at preventing sexual assault on the job. Protesters launched a hunger strike earlier this week and will be joined by their children as they read open letters to their attackers on the Capitol grounds during the fourth day of the fast. Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, is expected to join them at 11 a.m. on the east lawn of the Capitol.