WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa campaign mailers draw fines


Santa Rosa has fined two political groups backed by public safety unions $1,000 each for mailers that violated the city’s campaign finance laws.

The violations were sparked when Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre saw a mailer criticizing Councilman Gary Wysocky and council candidate Julie Combs for wanting to “continue the infighting.”

Vas Dupre said she quickly noticed the mailer didn’t properly explain who was funding it, as required by city law.

“I said ‘I think we need to know who’s behind this,’ ” Vas Dupre said.

The mailer was paid for by an independent expenditure committee called the Committee for a Civil City Hall, and included the notation that it was “sponsored by business people and public safety employees.”

But the mailer didn’t list the group’s top three contributors, contact person, or other disclosures as required by city law.

According to filings, the committee has received $13,300 to date from three groups: $7,000 from the Santa Rosa Police Officers Association, the union representing the city’s 140 police officers; $5,000 from the political action committee of the Sonoma County Alliance, a coalition of local business interests; and $1,300 from the Sonoma Police Management Association, a union representing department brass.

Campaign finance filings indicate the committee spent about $11,000 on the mailer.

Vas Dupre said she was concerned that police officers were involved in “attacking” a sitting City Council member and another candidate who have called for greater financial sacrifices from police to help resolve the city’s budget woes and pension debt.

“They tout civility and flout legality,” Vas Dupre said. “It really upsets me.”

Alan Schellerup, president of the Santa Rosa Police Officers Association, took responsibility for the error.

“All I can say is we made the mistake, we’re going to pay the fine and move on,” Schellerup said.

He said he spoke to several consultants about the mailer and the job was “rushed.” He said the error was “an oversight” for which he took full responsibility.

“There was absolutely no intention on our part to violate the law,” Schellerup said.

In the process of investigating Vas Dupre’s allegation, the city also took a look at a mailer sent by the political action committees of the firefighters union and the Santa Rosa City Employees Association, the largest city employees union.

Their mailer endorsed Mayor Ernesto Olivares, Erin Carlstrom, Don Taylor and Hans Dippel for City Council, calling them “team players.”

The mailer clearly noted it was paid for by the two groups, but it failed to list other required information, including a contact number, registered agent, the amount of the expenditure and a statement making it clear the mailing wasn’t authorized by any candidate.

Jack Thomas, president of firefighters union, also said there was never any intent to mislead anyone about who was behind the mailer. He called the violation a “minor infraction” and said union officials simply failed to spot the omission.

“We missed it,” Thomas said.

The group spent $7,624 on the mailer, according to campaign filings, but Thomas said the full cost was closer to $12,000 when the Santa Rosa City Employees Association portion was considered.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater

21 Responses to “Santa Rosa campaign mailers draw fines”

  1. Hypocrit Vas Dupre says:

    I know Marsha Vas Dupre well. I was very disappointed in her in 2010 when it became public that Michael Allen had taken money in exchange for his vote on the Planning Commission. Marsha said nothing. Even though she knew the corruption charge was factual. Nothing from Marsha. This conduct from her is known as situational ethics. She has a set of standards but they only apply to those she believes represent other viewpoints. When it comes to Michael Allen and the North Bay Labor Council…the very people who have funded her campaigns, she is like the monkey who see no evil, hears no evil, and slaps a hand over her mouth. She stands for nothing but partisanship.

    Her buddy Gary Wysocky appointed the sleezebag Allen to the Planning Commission and also did nothing but support Allen when he learned that Allen had a quid pro quo arrangement with the Water Agency. Too bad there wasn’t a “hit piece” put out to educate the voters about the real reason to vote against Wysocky, a lack of integrity.

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  2. Richard Gozina says:

    And you are….what exactly?

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  3. Kay Tokerud says:

    Gorin’s seat is now open and we have a 3 to 3 split on the Santa Rosa City Council, how will this vacancy be filled? Don Taylor came in fifth. The fight isn’t over. Unless Carlstrom goes with Olivares, we’ll see.

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  4. Snarky says:

    Richard Gozina:

    Wouldn’t it be easier for you to just admit you are a do-nothing government worker… who is pounding away on his keyboard at his government office… because his government “work load” is essentially a 4 hour day ?

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  5. Richard Gozina says:

    Snarky, are you seriously saying being fined for campaign mailer identification is on par with incest? Murder? You are pulling from a nationwide group of a combined 2 million people. Why don’t you just say you don’t like public employees instead of trying to use flawed logic to try and jade anyone who comes to this site.

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  6. Sally Doyle says:

    I didn’t realize Vas Dupre was such a beat cop when it comes to enforcing a dubious city political mailer ordinance.

    I wonder if she would have taken the same view if the mailer came from the worker’s party, the greens, SEIU or the teachers union?

    The cops should have signed it with something like workers for a better, greener Santa Rosa.

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  7. Snarky says:

    Message to “Terry” ( AKA “Retired Cop” )

    You went off the deep end, buddy.

    What really caused your heartburn?

    My pointing out that the entire Oakland Police Department has been and currently is under Federal Court supervision for engaging in dept wide misconduct and criminality against the public ?

    Or was it my pointing out that the entire Los Angeles County Jail system, and the Sheriff Baca himself, have been and continue to be under FBI investigation for criminal misconduct by deputy jailers against inmates?

    Maybe it was because I pointed out the Modesto cop who was just arrested for molesting his 15 year old relative ?

    Or, was it the news item I related to with regard to the US Secret Service Agent who was just arrested for molesting a 14 year old ?


    Maybe you’re angry because I reminded people of the Sacramento cop who is being prosecuted right now for LYING in his police reports and faking evidence against what he called “DUI” suspects?

    What about that Sacramento cop who was arrested for murdering a man in a bar room brawl as he pulled his off duty gun and shot another customer.

    Which makes me wonder, “Terry,” why does California allow you cops to carry a weapon off duty in a bar while you are drinking alcohol ???????

    At least I didn’t bring up the case from last year in Philadelphia where a cop was prosecuted for INCEST.

    Whats the heartburn, “Retired Cop,”.. er… I mean…. “Terry?” lol

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  8. Grapevines says:

    David Broaderick said “It is called a one party state dictatorship.”

    David, what do you think we have happening here in California right now??

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  9. Ken says:

    @David I have no idea what you’re babbling about. The content was not censured. The backers of the mailer didn’t identify themselves. What part of illegal do you not understand?

    @Caller Yeah the Gang of Four will be great for SR, and Sawyer great for the first district if you’re public safety. 9% increase in pension payments OFFSET by an 8% increase in pay. Gee, wish I could get that kind of deal. Oh, yeah, I’m not rich enough to buy off my council members. And I’m not a rich Southern Cal developer, so I can’t buy off Sawyer. Damn!

    Sorry, but I’m NOT voting for those who are so easily bought and paid for.

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  10. Betty R says:

    it’s funny that only Marsha Van Dupre saw it and no one else….guess she don’t have much to do now that she’s not running for city council.

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  11. David Broderick says:

    It sure is great when a government agency can censor free speech because they don’t like what a political mailer says.

    Is there a difference with happened here and what happens in communist China where political opposition is routinely surpressed? It is called a one party state dictatorship.

    The government may not like what you say, but they have no right to surpress it. Isn’t that why we have freedom of speech or do we?

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  12. Reality Check says:

    I personally don’t care whether the sponsor of these mailers is identified. It’s the content that should be the scandal. When did anyone get a mailer that wasn’t slanderous, demeaning, juvenile, and insulting to the voter’s intelligence?

    And then there are the robocalls. I used to like omelets at a certain railroad district restaurant. No more.

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  13. Caller says:

    The actions of committees supporting candidates is not indicative of the types of leaders their preferred candidates are/will be. Candidates don’t endorse committees; it’s the other way around. What matters most is the way a council member would vote. When it comes to making decisions best for the local economy, Olivares, Taylor, and Dippel do so for Santa Rosa, and Sawyer for the County as a Supervisor. If you also care about a candidate’s ethnics and treatment of others, anyone who’s watched a few council meetings knows Wysocky flat-out abusive. And Julie Combs only cares about her own neighborhood.

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  14. Andrew M says:

    I found those flyers offensive the moment I saw them in my mail. The Business Alliance is behind them and always has been behind the conservative anti-environmental faction that disregards neighborhood and citizen desires, doesn’t even respect others. I hope their foul flyers backfire. The union bashers here in the comments are ironic, given these flyers come from the Republican, anti-union business faction in Sonoma Cty, trying to deceive all of us.

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  15. Vinyl Rules says:

    Typical; cops and firefighters looking out for themselves, but not their brothers and sisters. Do they really think public safety unions can exist in a void? They only exist because other unions, like SEIU, do all the heavy-lifting.

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  16. Grapevines says:

    “He called the violation a “minor infraction” and said union officials simply failed to spot the omission.”

    What this means is that the union officials hoped that nobody would notice it. Whenever someone says “union officials” one means slimeballs and weasels.

    Actually union officials and lawyers give slimeballs and weasels a bad name.

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  17. Juan Lock says:

    If they were going to ignore part of the law, why not ignore all of it? Anonymous mailers would be even more effective.

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  18. Dick Tracy says:

    Shame on you Officer Koch.

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  19. Terry says:


    Ya, those dirty police and firemen that risk their lives every day to protect me and my kids. Boy, we’d be better off without them wouldn’t we? Let’s do all we can to bash them at every chance we can, including here on this forum.

    In fact, let’s get Gary Wysocky, Julie Combs, and Susan Gorin to them in their mailers like they’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. While we’re at it, let’s call a technical oversight an “ILLEGAL” act with capital letters on par with armed ROBBERY or ASSAULT. Boy, that will make all of us safer and more secure.

    The truth is that we should elect candidates that get it. Elect those that understand how important these services are, and are willing to fight against political attacks like Snarky’s and the aforementioned political hacks that have sold themselves to special interests like the SEIU and Local 3.

    Vote for sane government that balances ALL of our needs…Vote for Sawyer and Don Taylor.

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  20. Camino Alto says:

    “…$5,000 from the political action committee of the Sonoma County Alliance, a coalition of local business interests”

    Sonoma County Alliance is a group of developers, builders and construction interests. They are the ones that brought us those racist lying hit pieces against Pamela Torliatt two years ago. With friends like them, who needs enemies.

    And my thanks as well to Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre for bringing this to light. The truth is a powerful weapon.

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  21. Snarky says:

    Imagine that.

    The police are behind an ILLEGAL attempt to manipulate the voters in Sonoma County.

    Vote “yes” for Gary Wysocki as I am.

    Vote “yes” for Julie Combs.

    And THANK YOU to Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre for
    exposing the criminals behind the illegal mailers.

    As they used to say, “ignorance of the law is no excuse”… especially for cops.

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