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FPPC Staff Dismissed These Taxpayer Allegations Re City of Long Beach's Measure M "Informational" Materials With This Record is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.
(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, 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:

[Scroll down for further.]

Dear Ms. Price:

...The Enforcement Division received a sworn complaint alleging that you used public funds to campaign for Measure M, a utility funds transfer charter amendment that would authorize the City to transfer revenue from utilities to the general fund. After conducting our investigation and review of the case, we are closing this matter because there is insufficient evidence to support a finding that there was a violation of the Act.

You used private funds to maintain your email account and did not use public funds to send your email from May 30, 2018 promoting Measure M. Furthermore, in order to fall under the jurisdiction of the Act, the person or persons responsible for the email must have qualified as a "committee." The threshold for an independent expenditure committee is spending $1,000 or more in a calendar year. There is insufficient evidence that the threshold was met with regard to the email in question. Therefore, we have closed our investigation in this matter...



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":

  • 1. The direct mail pieces specifically were not "informational" in tone or contents as required, but in fact campaign pieces paid with government resources.

  • 2. The information provided and the manner in which they were disseminated were inconsistent with any established practice used by the City to circulate information.

  • 3. There are currently 259,839 registered voters or 147,579 households in Long Beach. The mail pieces were prepared by a direct mail consultant and mailed to only targeted (63,741 households) voters shortly before the upcoming election, which unquestionably constitutes campaign activity. If the pieces were truly "informational" they would have been sent to each and every voter in the City.

  • 4. The pieces contained inflammatory language to present the City's position of support for passage.

  • 5. When considering the style, tenor, and timing of these communications, these mail pieces can be reasonably characterized as campaign material and not a fair presentation of facts serving only an informational purpose.

More specifically, the direct mail pieces [attached to complaint] were not a fair representation of facts in as much the mail pieces:

  • 1. Used inflammatory language by threatening to cut public safety, street maintenance, storm drains, parks, senior services, libraries and homelessness if the measure did not pass. The City council had taken no action to make these cuts nor produced any analysis indicating that these or any cuts would be made to services;

  • 2. Misled voters by failing to disclose that the measure was a "tax" as defined by Proposition 26. The seriousness of the omission of this material fact is compounded by the mailing at the same time of pieces by "Mayor Robert Garcia Committee to Support Utility Transfer Measure M Committee" stating that the measure was "not a tax increase" [attached to complaint]

  • 3. Misled voters that the transfer would be "of surplus City utility revenues" when in fact the measure would allow a transfer based upon a percentage of the "utility's annual gross revenues"; and

  • 4. Failed to further disclose that the measure allows the City Council and Water Commission "to approve water, sewer and gas rates in an amount sufficient to recover the costs of operating each utility, including Council/Board-approved utility revenue transfers to the General Fund." That fact alone contradicts the direct mail piece which begins on side two with a statement that the measure would "explicitly authorize and affirm the transfer of surplus City utility revenues." Within less than a month after passage, the Water Commission sent a "Notice of Hearing" that water utility rates were being raised 7.2% as a result of "Long Beach voters approved Measure M authorizing continuing utility revenue transfer to the General Funds." [attached to complaint]


The "style, tenor and timing" of these communications did not serve only "an informational purpose." The City clearly orchestrated these mail pieces with the mail pieces sent by the Mayor's Committee, to overwhelm voters and to bring about passage of the measure using government resources.


On September 14, 2018, Ms. Schipske reported on her OpenUpLong 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...

"I am deeply disappointed in Ms. Yang’s response," says Schipske. "I had been emailing and calling FPPC several times for an answer on the main complaint."

Schipske added that Ms. Yang apologized for not having sent correspondence earlier on the entire complaint, and instead only responded to allegations concerning Mayor Garcia and Councilmembers Richardson, Andrews and Price [allegedly] utilizing taxpayer paid cellphones and emails to advocate for the passage of Measure M..."



On September 18, 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, informed FPPC spokesperson Wierenga by email that 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. 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, planned to report the record as above.

As of 5:00 p.m. Oct. 17, had received no response to our Oct. 16 email.

Further as newsworthy.

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