By Brad Branan
The state’s political watchdog approved $17,500 in fines against three local officials and political action committees Thursday.
The Fair Political Practices Commission signed off on the fines as part of settlement agreements reached between the commission and Sacramento County Supervisor Susan Peters, Elk Grove City Councilman Steven Detrick, SMUD board President Nancy Bui Thompson and political action committees associated with San Juan Unified School District.
The fines capped a busy election year for the commission, which approved 34 cases Thursday, including the four Sacramento County cases. Most involved a failure to file campaign reports.
Peters agreed to a $9,500 fine for violating the state’s conflict of interest laws. Peters voted on projects at the former Mather Air Force Base even though she owns land and office space there.
FPPC’s enforcement division opened the case in July 2014 because of a Sacramento Bee investigation that found Peters had voted on dozens of projects at Mather, which was transferred from the U.S. Air Force to Sacramento County. Peters and her late husband were developers involved in the transition of the base into a business park.
Enforcement chief Galena West said after Thursday’s meeting that because of the complexity of Peters’ case, it took more than two years to resolve. Peters’ extensive financial holdings had to be reviewed against every vote she made on a project at Mather since taking office in 2004, West said.
Peters recently said she had received advice from county counsel saying she could vote on Mather projects without violating state conflict of interest laws. She said she stopped voting on such projects once the commission opened its investigation.
Detrick, his wife, Janice, and his 2012 council campaign agreed to fines totaling $3,500. They failed to make proper campaign finance disclosures, which the FPPC said was a more significant problem because Detrick had twice violated state campaign finance laws in the past. Detrick used campaign funds to pay for his son’s legal fees and to buy a trip to a Sonoma winery.
Elk Grove community activist Constance Conley told commissioners they should fine Detrick the maximum allowed under the offenses: $10,000. But commissioners responded that they were already taking a tougher stance because of his past violations.
Detrick called the reporting violation “an unfortunate clerical error,” and said he was “glad to have this behind us.”
Bui Thompson and two political action committees and an individual involved with a San Juan construction bond vote agreed to settle cases for failing to make campaign reports. Bui Thompson will pay a $3,000 fine for making late campaign contribution reports. Friends of San Juan Unified School District, Yes on P and Kathy Byars agreed to a fine of $1,500 for failing to file a campaign report.