Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Election regulators fine Tulare hospital board member

Rosalinda Avitia, an elected member of the Tulare Local Health Care District board of directors, and her campaign treasurer Bob Montion are being ordered to pay a $3,500 fine by the Fair Political Practices Commission.
The campaign did not report $2,600 in contributions of $100 or more as required before the election last year, according to commission staff.
The health care district oversees Tulare Regional Medical Center.
Montion called the fine amount “fair” and said he apologized to Avitia for botching the reporting.
“It was a bookkeeping error,” said Montion, a former CEO of Tulare District Hospital, the former name of the medical center. The campaign couldn’t afford an accountant so he did the paperwork himself, he said.
It appears that the FPPC investigation was launched after lawyers for the health care district submitted sworn complaints about the campaign’s fundraising to the commission.
Attorney Leonard Herr of Visalia wrote in his complaint that Montion sent an email message to an executive at a construction company doing work for the hospital seeking campaign donations for Avitia.
Montion requested $99 donations, noting that small amounts don’t require disclosure of the donor’s name. He also asked that contributions be made to the “Latino PAC,” which would give the money to the campaign.
Montion “engaged in campaign money laundering, improper campaign reporting and improper receipt of campaign funds,” Herr wrote in his complaint. This week, Herr said he doesn’t know what the regulatory body learned but he’s confident that commission staff reached an appropriate conclusion.
Montion said he’s “delighted” that the investigation found nothing “nefarious” as alleged in the complaints.
The proposed fine is on the commission agenda for approval next week, but Montion said he and Avitia already signed settlement documents and paid the fine.

— Lewis Griswold

Money battle continues in Fresno trash outsourcing election war

The Measure G fundraising war continues, with both sides bringing in cash at a feverish pace ahead of the June 4 special election in which Fresno voters will decide on outsourcing the city’s residential trash pickup.

As of April 20, the Yes on G campaign, which is led by Mayor Ashley Swearengin and favors outsourcing, had raised more than $200,000. Since then, the campaign has picked up several additional contributions, including $49,000 from McDonald Aviation and $25,000 from Howe Electric.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin

The campaign has also found some success with the west-side farming crowd. Woolf Farming & Processing donated $25,000 and Don Peracchi, a west-side grower who is chairman of the Westlands Water District board, chipped in $5,000.

That pushes the Yes on G campaign past $300,000 — and it looks like it is spending just about every cent on various campaign efforts, including television commercials.

Outsourcing opponents look to be closing the gap somewhat.

The No on G campaign had only raised around $57,000 as of April 20.

Since then, it has picked up $100,000 from the International Union of Operating Engineers Stationary Engineers Local 39, $40,000 from the Service Employees International Union Local 1000 and more than $20,000 from the Fresno Police Officers Association.

That means No on G is well past $200,000 in its fundraising efforts. And, as with the Yes on G camp, it’s spending it as well.

A pair of donations to the No on G campaign that have raised eyebrows came from Perea Reviving Jobs and the Economy Ballot Measure Committee, a committee controlled by Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno.

On April 3, the committee gave $10,000, and on April 15 another $10,000 — a total of $20,000.

On April 5 — in between the two contributions — Sunset Waste contributed $20,000 to the Perea Reviving Jobs and the Economy Ballot Measure Committee.

Sunset Waste, City Hall’s longtime recycling partner, is suing Fresno. Sunset contends the city’s earlier decision to outsource its commercial trash pickup breaks a recycling contract between Sunset and the city.

Assembly Member Henry T. Perea

If privatizing residential trash pickup is approved, Sunset says is will sue a second time.

Bob Stern, a campaign ethics expert and former state Fair Political Practices Commission general counsel, said the Perea committee must disclose if the Sunset donation was directed to go to the No on G campaign.

Perea and Sunset officials didn’t return calls seeking comment. It is unknown if any such disclosure was made — or was even needed.

Dillon Savory, the No on G campaign manager, said in an email statement that “We truly appreciate the support that we are receiving from a broad range of supporters. Assemblymember Perea sent us a contribution and we said thank you.”