Complaint filed against BOE candidates
An anonymous complaint has been filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, also known as the FPPC, alleging voter law violations against Nevada County Board of Education candidates Marianne Slade-Troutman and Jack Meeks, claiming the two board trustees failed to file as a political committee in their support of candidate Paul Haas, who ran for Nevada County Superintendent of Schools in the June 3 primary election.
“When we receive complaints we take them under review, which is the first step to determine if a complaint has merit,” FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga said. “If it does not have merit, it is dismissed and the parties are notified. If the enforcement division deems that the complaint has merit, then an investigation begins and the parties are notified of that. So just getting a complaint does not mean there’s an investigation, that comes after the review process.”
A copy of the complaint was sent to The Union newsroom anonymously late last week, and on Oct. 29 the FPPC confirmed to The Union that the complaint had officially been filed. Wierenga says it has not been established whether or not the complaint has any merit, and that the review process usually takes one to two weeks, but may take longer due to its proximity to election day.
The complaint claims that Slade-Troutman and Meeks violated election codes 82047.5 and 18247.5 after collectively spending more than $1,000 in support of Haas, through radio and newspaper ads, yet failed to file as a political committee or meet any statutory requirements of a political committee.
“Mainly it’s just stating we spent some money on a candidate we liked, period,” Slade-Troutman said. “I’m surprised that there is a complaint. But whatever it is Jack and I need to do, we’re more than happy to do it. It’s not a problem. There’s so many rules and regulations and since we were not the candidates, we didn’t think we had to do anything.”
Containing copies of radio logs and newspaper ads, the complaint claims that a series of ads that ran in May and June 2014, in support of Haas, contained a disclaimer stating that they were paid for by Slade-Troutman and Meeks. The complaint alleges that the radio and newspaper ads had an estimated combined cost of close to $4,500, but that total is yet to be confirmed by the FPPC.
California Voter Foundation President Kim Alexander said that there is no way to know if the complaint is valid until the FPPC investigates it and makes a decision.
“The reason that we have this law is so that when there is communication from a group that’s trying to convince the public one way or another on something on the ballot, that there be accountability for that communication,” Alexander said. “You form a committee and you’re assigned an ID number so that it’s possible for the public to look up your records and follow the money and find out who’s behind that communication.”
With election day nearing, though, Meeks said the timing of the complaint is suspect.
“I don’t really know who paid the check to the radio,” Meeks said. “I know the three of us just got together and decided we were going to make a more interesting spot if we combine the voices. So we all showed up at the same time. But I didn’t have anything to do with paying for it.”
Claiming that Haas stated that he approved of some of the radio ads, the complaint alleges that Haas was in collaboration with Slade-Troutman and Meeks in the running of the ads, and did not report any of the money spent on the ads as either a donation or expenditure on his form 460 campaign statements.
Haas, though, said there was no malicious intent on their part, and that once he received a copy of the complaint Thursday he got his form 460 amended to reflect the ad expenses. Haas also pointed out that the complaint failed to pull his campaign’s form 49,7 which officially shows Slade-Troutman was listed as a donor who contributed more than $1,000 in support of his candidacy.
“I was noticed, and we took action and we believe we’ve done the correct thing,” Haas said. “There was no intent to mislead or deceive. We did not know and we’ve corrected it.”
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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