Capitol Alert

Largest FPPC fine against local California official? Not exactly

Fair Political Practice Commission Chairwoman Jodi Remke, center, is flanked by commissioners Patricia Wynne, left, and Eric Casher on Nov. 20, 2014 in Sacramento.
Fair Political Practice Commission Chairwoman Jodi Remke, center, is flanked by commissioners Patricia Wynne, left, and Eric Casher on Nov. 20, 2014 in Sacramento. rpench@sacbee.com

California’s political watchdog proposed a $104,000 fine against a City of Commerce councilwoman earlier this week for allegedly using campaign money to cover personal expenses and a slew of other financial misdeeds.

Some suggested it was the largest Fair Political Practices Commission penalty against a local elected official in California history. As it turns out, that’s not exactly true.

Longtime Sacramentans might remember the curious case of Bill Bryan, a county supervisor who in 1988 agreed to a $290,000 settlement stemming from more than 50 counts of violating the Political Reform Act.

The FPPC accused Bryan of corruption, alleging he accepted a loan from developer Angelo Tsakopoulos and then cast votes in his favor on two big projects in south Sacramento County.

Bryan didn’t appear to be big on disclosure, either. The agency said he failed to accurately file campaign receipts and expenditures and withheld information about his sources of personal income and investments.

The heavy fine makes the case memorable, as does the outcome: Bryan never paid his debt.

“Despite pursuing all legal avenues, we have not been able to recover the money,” said Jay Wierenga, a spokesman for the FPPC.

After serving six years on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, he resigned in 1986 and moved back to his hometown of Lindstrom, Minn. He opened a video store in the small town a couple years later, according to Bee accounts at the time. A phone number listed for the video store no longer appears to be in service.

Wierenga said the agency did everything possible to recover the money, including winning a civil edict in Minnesota, to compel Bryan to pay up.

Bryan also served time in federal prison on unrelated bribery charges over negotiations to award a Sacramento cable television contract.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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