Five campaigns for city of Santa Barbara offices have accrued fines after filing late contribution reports, Interim City Administrator/City Clerk Rebecca Bjork announced Wednesday.
The California Fair Political Practices Commission requires that campaign committees file within 24 hours of receiving contributions of $1,000 or more within 90 days of the election. The fine is $10 per each day a report is late.
The Nina Johnson for City Council campaign faces a fine of $6,570. Randy Rowse for Mayor is charged $4,020.
Mark Whitehurst for Mayor owes $800. James Joyce for Mayor has a $90 violation, and Deborah Schwartz for Mayor was fined $40.
Sarah Gorman, City Clerk services manager, couldn’t speak to how often the City fines candidates, but she commented on the extent of the violations.
“These particular violations are viewed as particularly strong,” she told the News-Press.
Ms. Bjork provided her comments in a news release.
“The law is clear that contribution reports must be filed on time,” she said. “The public is deprived of important information it needs to make informed decisions, election decisions when reports are not filed on time.”
Ms. Johnson, senior assistant to the city administrator’s, and Mr. Rowse don’t recall learning about the filing requirements from the city.
Mr. Rowse wonders if he got everyone else in trouble. He looked up the deadlines online one day and realized he had made a mistake and reported himself to the city clerk.
It seemed like she didn’t know what enforcement actions to take right away, he said.
He told the News-Press the 24-hour rule was new and must have been established after he ran in 2015 for City Council.
But the Political Reform Act was reformed to include the rule prior to his 2015 campaign. Mr. Rowse didn’t know because perhaps it wasn’t enforced.
As for the $4,020 coming out of his $270,875.85, he feels bad to disappoint his donors.
His transgression was this: Mr. Rowse collected nearly $24,000 in contributions from Aug. 8 to Sep. 17 before realizing his mistake. On Sept. 17, he filed 12 reports.
Ms. Johnson reported over $50,000 in contributions received from Aug. 8 to Sept. 27, separated into 27 individual reports she filed on Sept. 27.
“The misunderstanding on the filing requirement is one that I take full responsibility for,” she said in a statement to the News-Press. “As soon as we learned about the requirement, we filed the larger campaign statement as soon as possible on Sept. 25 and the remaining statements were filed on Sept. 27, and we have been in compliance ever since.
“All information was fully disclosed and available online for the public to view, well before ballots were mailed allowing voters to make informed decisions. Our campaign team is focused on real crises — working on solutions for homelessness, the high cost of housing and business recovery and revitalization.”
The donors generally gave $1,000 or $2,000, and many contributors worked as attorneys or real estate professionals.
“Unlike Councilmember Meagan Harmon who has received large sums from unions and other elected officials, we have taken a different approach, not accepting any donations from unions or elected officials,” she said. “I’m proud of the large number of individual contributions received from a broad range of community supporters, small businesses, and downtown stakeholders.
“My supporters are the people of Santa Barbara, not a political party. Our campaign is made up of grassroots volunteers who do not have political campaign experience. They believe in our mission of restoring more inclusive, collaborative community conversations and rebuilding trust in local government.”
The News-Press reached out to Ms. Harmon for comment.
“It is sad that instead of simply apologizing for breaking the law and depriving voters of their right to full public disclosure, this candidate chooses to bash working families and the many highly respected community leaders who support my campaign to continue serving on the City Council,” she said.
The election will be held Nov. 2, and registered voters have been sent ballots last week.