Capitol Alert

The $1 fine that cost taxpayers $106,173.50

Chuck Reed, then mayor of San Jose, talks to the Sacramento Press Club during its April 2014 luncheon about his failed effort to put a public pension reform measure on the ballot.
Chuck Reed, then mayor of San Jose, talks to the Sacramento Press Club during its April 2014 luncheon about his failed effort to put a public pension reform measure on the ballot. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

In the middle of a marathon session ahead of a looming bill deadline, the Assembly on Monday quickly passed a measure appropriating money to settle some cases with the state. One item directed $106,173.50 to former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

The payout reflects a reversal for the California Fair Political Practices Commission. The campaign finance monitor in 2013 concluded that Reed’s pension reform committee had illegally passed $100,000 to a different group. But the agency decided Reed had acted unintentionally so levied a mostly-symbolic one-dollar fine.

But Reed appealed and ultimately won a favorable ruling in court, with a judge determining that the law used to fine Reed unconstitutionally infringed on his freedom of speech. That decision allowed Reed to negotiate a settlement in which the FPPC agreed to pay Reed’s attorney fees.

“We did our due diligence,” said FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga. “We followed the law, but that portion of the law, the judge agreed with Reed that that portion of the law was unconstitutional."

Asked shortly after the Assembly vote whether it gave him a sense of closure, Reed said, chuckling, “I won’t close that chapter until I get the money.”

Another chapter of Reed’s political career is far from finished. After San Jose voters approved a local pension-change measure that he backed in 2012, Reed tried to put a pension measure on last year’s statewide ballot. The effort stalled when he sued Attorney General Kamala Harris over how she described the proposal on voter materials. The court sided with Harris.

Now Reed, a Democrat, has teamed up with former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, a Republican, to put a pension proposal on the November 2016 ballot. They have not yet announced specifics.

“We’re still working on it,” Reed said. “We’re getting close, I think.”

Editor’s Note: This post was updated at 1:22 p.m. on June 2, 2015 to include Wierenga’s comments.

Jeremy B. White: (916) 326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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