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California Political Ethics|Commission Fines 19

SACRAMENTO (CN) - The California Fair Political Practices Commission handed out 19 fines this month, whacking the longtime mayor of Santa Ana for $13,000 for a conflict of interest.

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido was fined $13,000 for six violations of the state's Political Reform Act, stemming from a land swap with a city contractor.

Pulido's fine is the fourth-largest issued by the FPPC this year.

In 2010, Pulido transferred a parking lot to Rupen Akoubian in exchange for a home in nearby Westminster; they documented it as an equal financial exchange. Four months later, Pulido voted to extend a city contract with Akoubian despite being prohibited from voting on any measure that could benefit Akoubian financially within a year of the real estate transaction.

"Mayor Pulido knew or should have known that his vote on the contract with the auto parts store was prohibited by his own recent real estate transaction with the store owner," the FPPC wrote in its order. "This was more than an inadvertent oversight."

The report issued by the FPPC says Pulido, the 20-year mayor, filled out documents estimating the land swap to be worth $200,000, but an Orange County assessor later valued the Westminster property at $430,000.

According to the report, Pulido later sold the house for $397,000 and failed to report the sale on a 2013 statement of economic interests.

Pulido's other violations involved failing to disclose financial documents and information on the land swap and subsequent sale of the house.

The Orange County District Attorney concluded an investigation of Pulido Friday and said there will be no criminal charges filed.

"I am pleased to be vindicated by the district attorney," Pulido said in a statement. "In addition, the FPPC violations, which I have corrected, are reporting violations which I believe constituted no harm to the public."

While Pulido was not accused of criminal charges, the District Attorney's Office said the land swap could be investigated for tax fraud.

"That issue has been referred to the [state] Franchise Tax Board to evaluate whether or not there are any possible tax fraud issues associated with the low property value submitted for the Westminster house," the report says.

Pulido faced a maximum fine of $30,000 but was given a reduced fine because he cooperated with the investigation, the FPPC said.

Other notable FPPC fines included Lassen County Supervisor Tom Hammond, who was fined $2,000 for approving sale of land within 500 feet of property he owned. Hammond admitted the sale would benefit his property value and voted for the sale during his first meeting as a board member.

Hammond did not respond to a request for comment.

A $3,000 fined was handed to Constance Conley, treasurer of the Elk Grove Community Connection PAC, for using campaign funds that did not relate to a political or legislative purpose.

The Rancho Cucamonga Professional Firefighters Association IAFF Local 2274 PAC and the Teamsters Joint Council No. 7 PAC also received fines for campaign reporting.

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