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O.C. Voters to Decide if They Want State to Prosecute Violations of Local Campaign Finance Laws

A watchdog's dream? The author of the original "Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics" law passed in 1991 says no.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

Orange County voters will be asked if they want to give the California Fair Political Practices Commission the authority to prosecute violations of a local campaign finance ordinance.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors agreed today to place the question on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

If voters approve a change in the Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics -- or TINCUP -- ordinance approved by voters in 1991, then it will come in the face of opposition from the law's author and current enforcer, Shirley Grindle.

"I believe it is only a Band-Aid solution to what is really needed," Grindle said of putting the FPPC in charge of prosecuting civil violations.

"It doesn't solve the monitoring of county campaigns I've been doing since 1978," Grindle told the supervisors.

She also warned that the FPPC will make violations -- even inadvertent ones -- public, unlike her protocol, which is to handle discrepancies behind the scenes with the elected leader.

Grindle said the county should form an ethics commission, an idea she has championed for five years.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer praised Grindle's work as a campaign finance watchdog and said he also has supported the formation of an ethics commission. But he said he preferred hiring the FPPC after reviewing how the agency works on a similar basis in San Bernardino County.

"There will be random auditing" of elected leaders under the FPPC plan, Spitzer said, addressing one of the many "myths" he said has sprouted up about the proposal.

"Another myth is this somehow usurps the authority of the District Attorney," Spitzer said. The commission can still refer criminal cases to prosecutors, "and the District Attorney still has the power to do an independent investigation," he said.

Spitzer said he was "disappointed" in Grindle's opposition because it will make it an "uphill" battle to convince voters to support the plan.

Orange County board Chairman Shawn Nelson said Grindle was being "a little shortsighted."

He praised Grindle's work overseeing TINCUP, but noted that when she stops doing so, no one will be around to pick up the mantle.

"You're extremely unique and we're not always going to have you," Nelson said. "What the FPPC has is stability ... If we didn't have Shirley Grindle with her 3-by-5 index cards stacked up all around her house, we wouldn't have anything ...

"This isn't about us. We're going to be gone (when the FPPC begins its work) and you've got to have a system that isn't dependent on just one person ... They have continuity. People who do this for a career ... It's a better solution than nothing, and absent you we have nothing."

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach noted an ad hoc county committee recommended changes to TINCUP four years ago, but the board decided against taking action. Grindle complained then that the recommendations would "gut" the ordinance.

Moorlach said San Bernardino only had to pay about $9,000 last year to the FPPC, a "much cheaper" alternative to a recent grand jury's suggestion of forming an independent review board to enforce ethics.

--City News Service


Brainwashed_In_Church July 15, 2014 at 08:54 PM
Not sure if this is good news or bad news considering that the majority of voters couldn't name the three branches of government or two of five 1st amendment freedoms or find Nepal on a map or balance a checkbook. But that doesn't make any difference; they only thing that counts is that you vote. After all, people died for your right to vote, right? Not sure exactly who, when, or where, but someone somewhere, supposedly died for that right.
Tom Cagley July 16, 2014 at 09:20 AM
The 2013-14 OC Grand Jury published a report on this subject that is worth reading. It can be found at: http://www.ocgrandjury.org/reports.asp and is titled "Ethics and Campaign Reporting."
Dan Avery July 16, 2014 at 12:38 PM
This is definitely good news. In the last few years Connie Lee, Dale Tyler, and Ed Sachs have all been warned by the FPPC for violating campaign law. All three are from Mission Viejo. Ed Sachs is probably running again this fall for a seat on our city council. In their letter to him, the FPPC mentioned that they were seriously interested in talking to Sachs' fundraiser, but the person had left the United States. Connie Lee and Dale Tyler were both given warnings for violations during the recent recall election. All three belong to a group in Mission Viejo that has tried to take over and/or control the city council for the last ten years. This group has a history of not caring about campaign laws.

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