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Santa Rosa police/fire union accused of campaign violation

Richard Meechan

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A former Santa Rosa City Council candidate claims the union representing police and fire managers may have violated campaign finance laws in the last election.

Richard Meechan, a local attorney who dropped out of last year’s City Council race, filed a complaint this week with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.

Meechan claims that the union representing public safety managers and a political action committee bent on bouncing Mayor Susan Gorin and Councilwoman Veronica Jacobi from office appear to have struck a donation deal that wasn’t disclosed until after the election.

But Rob Muelrath, the political consultant for the independent expenditure committee, “The Coalition to Clean up the Mess at City Hall — Citizens Opposing Gorin and Jacobi for Santa Rosa City Council 2010,” said there was no such deal.

“It’s clear to me that they are trying to make this into something that it is not,” Muelrath said.

The 2010 council race was notable for the personal nature of the political attacks by public safety unions against Gorin and Jacobi, both of whom made it clear that budget pressures required the city to pursue further concessions from public employees.

The city’s main police and fire unions, the Santa Rosa Police Officers Association the Santa Rosa Firefighters Local 1401, joined forces with the two prominent builder groups, the North Coast Builders’ Exchange and the Sonoma County Alliance PAC, to donate $10,000 each to the committee.

The committee and the donor groups disclosed the contributions about two weeks before the election.

But the Santa Rosa Police Management Association, which represents 29 sworn managers in the police department and five managers in the fire department, did not report their $7,000 donation to the group until election day. And the committee didn’t report until Feb. 3 the donation it says it received Nov. 3.

The group ultimately spent nearly $49,000 on mailers against Gorin and Jacobi and donations to their opponents, Scott Bartley, Jake Ours and Juan Hernandez. Jacobi lost, shifting the balance of power on the council back in favor of candidates supported by business organizations.

“The reason this is more than just a technical violation of FPPC regulations is that it was newsworthy and likely to influence voters who were denied the opportunity to hear about it,” Meechan wrote in his complaint.

Meechan argues that the committee’s expense reports from mid- to late October make it “obvious from the spending that the contribution was promised.”

Rebecca Olson, the Sacramento attorney hired by the committee to file its campaign finance reports, said even if the union did agree to make a later donation, that’s not something either group needed to report unless it was an “enforceable promise,” like a written promise or guarantee.

The public would not be served by disclosures of informal agreements for future donations because promises can be broken, Olson said.

Campaigns often spend money they don’t have in hand and then raise funds to pay for those expenses, Muelrath said.

“We’re betting on the come that we’re going to continue to raise the money,” Muelrath said.

Sgt. Steve Fraga, union president, did not return a call for comment.

Gorin said she’s not familiar with the specifics of the complaint but has noticed a troubling pattern of large donations being made to campaigns on or just after election day.

“It speaks to the fact there is not transparency about what groups are funding the mailers,” she said.





18 Responses to “Santa Rosa police/fire union accused of campaign violation”

  1. Allen's Cover Up says:

    Stop the presses. Lisa Maldonado is angry and bitter again over the Press Democrat. But the PD gives her a forum for spreading all her propaganda so what’s she complaining about?

    Stephen Anthony’s post below is a paid political announcement from the Allen campaign.

    His spokeswoman Lisa Maldonado must be at least a little conflicted since the two unions who are the subject of the complaint belong to her North Bay Labor Council.

    Lisa bitterly complains here about the PD covering the state’s investigation of Allen but also bitterly complains that the paper is not covering complaints about her political opponent’s enough. No evidence ever from her, just hot air.

  2. ludacris says:

    http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20080510/NEWS/805100330

    “Using newspaper headlines and condensed copies of financial disclosure forms, the mailer reminds voters that Wright was fined $14,500 by a state election agency in 1998 for failing to disclose her consulting businesses’ income from the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.”

    Just what “newspaper headlines” do you think this refers to, Mr. Anthony?

  3. Stephen Anthony says:

    Where is Derek Moore’s follow up on this story? Does he only hound progressive candidates with fppc citations or is he an equal opportunity reporter? There is a lot to this story that won’t get reported or investigated because those involved (Jake Ours and Scott Bartley)were candidates that the PD endorsed. Unlike Michael Allen who they have constantly attacked for being Progressive. If anyone out there doesn’t believe that the Press Democrat is part of the Santa Rosa/ Sonoma County “old Boys Network” I would be shocked. But then they never reported in depth on the huge fine that their other fair haired child and endorsed candidate Sharon Wright got from the FPPC for her conflict of interest kick backs…and it was bigger than 3 thousand dollars. Another day another shameful example of bad reporting and shady ethics at the PD….

  4. cyclist says:

    Stu – there are always 2 sides. Wysocky, Gorin, Vas Dupre and the other Olivares, Ours, Bartley. Sawyers just side which ever. They are protecting their own. Jacobi is out why? Taylor cannot get in and now Meecham.

  5. Stu says:

    Cyclist,

    What’s interesting is that if it is the more conservative side involved, then it’s the “good ol’ boy” network. But, if it’s the liberal side, that somehow doesn’t apply?!? Look at the connection between Meechan, Wysocky, Gorin, Jacobi, Lisa Maldonado, Jack Buckhorn, Michael Allen, etc, and tell me there’s no “network” or “protectionalism” there!

  6. cyclist says:

    Mr Meecham is doing what we ought to be doing. Question all the avenue to see if there are any campaign violation. I don’t think he is a sore looser. The “good ole boy” network should be broken up. It is a case of protectionism of one of their own.

  7. Ray M. says:

    “Ethical Attorney.” That’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one. Sorry @Joe, to bad you couldn’t make it as a cop. Maybe you would think differently.

  8. Dan Delgado says:

    “I hope others join Mr. Meechan in his efforts to keep our political system free of political corruption.”

    Mr. Soldis,

    I couldn’t have said it better. Now if we could only get Michael Allen and his chief of staff off the state payroll ….

  9. Donna Zapata says:

    Once again….’OLD’ news….Get a life, Mr. Meechan, YOU dropped out of the race!

  10. John says:

    Funny how the conversation about campaign funding ALWAYS points at Unions. Why doesn’t anyone pay attention to the contributions made by big business (the other Special Interest Groups). Their interests haven’t exactly been real great for the economy lately.(or have’nt you noticed)

    Remeber your history. Unions formed Because Of the abuses of Big Business.

    Cudo’s to Stu for actually finding the facts left out by the Press. no lemmings here.

  11. Justice says:

    Steve fraga wouldn’t comment? Hmmmm cops always say that if a suspect won’t talk it because they have something to hide!

    Sgt fraga what are you hiding?

  12. Mike says:

    Exhibit A, why public union money has taken over local government. If this was some third world authoritarian dictorship where the government buys elections the citizens of California would condemn it. Here in California we ignore it and allow it to continue.

    The power of the teachers union, SEIU, the prision guards and the public safety unions in California is the envy of many foreign dictators. They provide the money for the politicans to be elected; they have the get out the vote people ready and they have the votes to elect their bought and paid for representatives.

    None of this is good for our state or our local government.

    This has got to change or our system of government will continue to be held by a few holding office and their benefactors. At a mimimum this has led to huge budget deficits, a bloated bureacracy, pension plans that are not sustainable and some of highest taxes in the country.

  13. Stu says:

    Wow. What sore losers! Typical of the whining that goes on by that side of local politics. Get a life, Mr. Meechan.

    By the way, I looked up the FPPC complaint, and it’s against Mr. Muelrath, the consultant, not the police or fire unions.

    The only allegation is that they did not report the contribution in time and it was supposedly a big deal because it would be somehow “newsworthy”. Well, if you recall, it was pretty obvious that the cops and firemen were against Gorin and Jacobi from the outset, and that was already HEAVILY reported.

    Another case of unbiased “factual” reporting by the Press Democrat. What a joke.

  14. Brian says:

    Shocking! Who would have ever believed that Santa Rosa’s most esteemed old boy’s clubs wouldn’t play fair at election time?

    I thought that the North Coast Builders’ Exchange & Sonoma County Alliance PAC were looking out for our citizenry.

  15. Paul Hewse says:

    Looks like Meechan is taking Nixonian “enemies list” lessons from David Glass and his henchman Tim Smith (The unremarkable Rohnert Park one, not the former supervisor).

  16. Joseph Soldis says:

    I know Mr. Meechan to be an outstanding and ethical attorney. I applaud him for standing up for the right thing and hold these leaders and unions accountable for their conduct. I hope others join Mr. Meechan in his efforts to keep our political system free of political corruption. It is especially disturbing when this unconscionable conduct involves the ones we are to trust- Law Enforcement.

  17. Horatio Hornblower says:

    Seems like sour grapes to me. Though I didn’t know sour grapes made your brain pucker as well.

  18. A Taxpayer says:

    Shocker! Bartley and Ours sweetheart deal with the public unions smelled rotten from the beginning. Good for Mr Meecham, exposing this pay for play scandal. Ours and Bartley have already begun to carry out their bargain with the establishment of a ” Public Pension Committee” that is all set up to keep enriching their police supporters as promised. They must think voters and taxpayers are pretty stupid. I am glad Rick Meechum pulled their covers.