Capitol Alert

FPPC approves fine for city official who remodeled kitchen with campaign cash

The Fair Political Practices Commission approved a $55,000 settlement deal Thursday with Tina Baca Del Rio, a Commerce councilwoman who failed to file numerous financial disclosure forms with the state and used her campaign fund to cover expenses for her kitchen remodel.

The case first appeared on the political watchdog’s monthly agenda in July with a proposed $104,000 fine on 24 counts of violating California’s Political Reform Act. Baca Del Rio had previously ignored notices from the FPPC, but showed up at the agency’s offices the day of the July meeting to negotiate a deal.

An FPPC spokesman said she provided evidence to lower the number of violations and agreed to pay a reduced settlement of $55,000 on 12 counts.

The 5-member commission deadlocked at the August meeting, after the tie-breaker, Commissioner Eric Casher missed the meeting.

But on Thursday Casher voted in concert with Chair Jodi Remke and Commissioner Patricia Wynne to approve the deal. Commissioner Maria Audero voted against the settlement for a second time and Commissioner Gavin Wasserman, who also voted against it in August, did not attend the meeting.

“The fine imposed is significant and it’s punitive and it’s going to serve as a deterrent,” Casher said at the meeting Thursday after apologizing for his absence in August. “It’s large compared to a lot of the fines I’ve seen before the commission.”

Baca Del Rio’s violations included transferring more than $8,000 from her campaign committee to her personal bank account and using campaign money for purchases at Lowe’s and Wayfair for her kitchen renovation.

Richard Hernandez was among a handful of Commerce residents who traveled to Sacramento for the meeting and asked the commission to levy the highest possible fine against Baca Del Rio.

“I honestly believe that she does have you fooled, but I’m asking you to be a lot more firm,” he said to the commission. “Make this case an example, not just for the members in Commerce, but in all the other cities in California. Show them that you’re not going to show any type of tolerance for their violations.”

The commission also approved a $15,500 fine against Ivan Altamirano, the mayor of Commerce, Thursday. Altamirano violated the law by appointing his sister to the city planning commission, placing a stop sign outside his home and rental property and failing to properly disclose financial activity to the state.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna