|(Oct. 17, 2018, 5:25 p.m.) -- Staff at Sacramento's "Fair Political Practices Commission" (FPPC) dismissed LB taxpayer allegations (detailed below) as insufficient evidence of prohibited advocacy regarding "informational" materials disseminated by the City of Long Beach in connection with its Measure M (June 2018 election) utility revenue transfer/diversion ballot measure.
Agency staff failed to provide four LB taxpayer-complainants with a written explanation for its "no action" decision regarding the City-disseminated "informaional" material and, when asked by LBREPORT.com, provided a non-responsive response and declined a further invitation to explain the agency's action.
In a July 11, 2018 sworn complaint, LB taxpayers Tom Stout (co-founder, LB Taxpayer Ass'n), Dr. Joe Weinstein, PhD (president, Citizens About Responsible Planning), ELB taxpayer advocate Diana Lejins and attorney/retired Councilwoman Gererie Schipske alleged that actions the City described as "informational" amounted to improper use of public resources for advocacy on the City-sought June 2018 ballot measure. The complaint also alleged that three Council members and the Mayor used City resources in echoing such content.
The agency's Enforcement Division responded by letter dated July 24, 2018, titled "FPPC No. 2018-00665: City of Long Beach; Long Beach City Council Member Suzie Price," stating that it "will investigate the allegation(s), under the jurisdiction of the Commission, of the sworn complaint you submitted in the above-referenced matter" but said "the Enforcement Division found insufficient evidence of a violation by Mayor Garcia, Council Member Andrews, and Council Member Richardson, so they will not be named respondents in the above-referenced case." On August 28, 2018 the agency sent a "no action" letter clearing Councilwoman Price (text below) but failed to address the complainants' allegations regarding the City of Long Beach's "informational" campaign.
The FPPC letter, titled "No Action Letter: City of Long Beach and Suzie Price, FPPC No. 18/665", signed by Commission counsel Ruth Yang, stated in pertinent part:
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Dear Ms. Price:
The complainants' allegations against the City of Long Beach for its "informational" actions differed from those alleged against the elected officials. The complainants' complaint stated in pertinent part regarding the City of Long Beach:
[Complainants' allegations] The City of Long Beach violated the Political Reform Act by producing and mailing tens of thousands of copies of direct mail at government expense, titled "Common Questions and Answers on Measure M":
On September 14, 2018, Ms. Schipske reported on her OpenUpLong Beach.com website in pertinent part:
Ruth Yang, Counsel for the Fair Political Practices Commission today told Gerrie Schipske, who filed complaints with the FPPC, alleging that the Mayor and City Council had spent taxpayers’ dollars to advocate for passage of Measure M, that she did not find "enough evidence" to continue an investigation...
On September 18, LBREPORT.com emailed FPPC Communications Director Jay Wierenga and requested a copy of any correspondence to complainant Schipske and/or the three other complainants explaining the Enforcement Division's decision regarding the City of Long Beach's actions. On October 1, Mr. Wierenga emailed a copy of the August 28 "no action" letter to Councilwoman Price which doesn't address the complainants' allegations regarding the City of Long Beach's "informational" campaign.
On October 11, LBREPORT.com informed FPPC spokesperson Wierenga by email that LBREPORT.com is preparing to report that FPPC staff failed to provide a written response to the sworn complaint regarding actions by the City of Long Beach. Mr. Wierenga responded in pertinent part:
...[A]s explained quite plainly in the closure letter, the FPPC Enforcement Division declined to open an investigation in this matter for the very straightforward reason being there was insufficient evidence of any violation(s). Sufficient evidence indicating a potential violation is the standard required to begin any investigation. FPPC Enforcement has not failed to do anything required by law. Long Beach has a city attorney that can advise local officials of the law as well."
On October 16. LBREPORT.com emailed FPPC Acting Executive Director Loressa Hon requesting a responsive and accurate response to our request for any correspondence to complainant Schipske and/or the three other complainants explaining the Enforcement Division's decision regarding the City of Long Beach's "informational" actions. We also invited any other information pertinent to this matter and indicated that absent such a response, LBREPORT.com planned to report the record as above.
As of 5:00 p.m. Oct. 17, LBREPORT.com had received no response to our Oct. 16 email.
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