Ethics Commission Dismisses Charges Against 20 Candidates

San Jose’s Ethics Commission voted 3-2 Wednesday to dismiss charges against 20 candidates and City Council members who unwittingly broke local election laws.

Almost the entire City Council—including Mayor Sam Liccardo—was under investigation for failing to report late campaign donations. According to the Mercury News, commissioners Madhavee Vemulapalli and Adrian Gonzales voted against dropping the charges.

The issue arose last year, when the Ethics Commission fined Councilman Manh Nguyen $10,000 for missing campaign filings. Nguyen appealed the penalty, blaming City Clerk Toni Taber for giving him the wrong directions about what and when to file late contribution reports.

Only then did the Ethics Commission realize the extent of the problem, that 20 candidates in the past two years made the same mistake.

Last fall, commissioners decided to spend $30,000 to have an attorney look into the matter. Taber acknowledged she gave bad advice and urged the commission to dismiss the charges.

Part of the mix-up stemmed from the city's rules going above and beyond the state requirements for campaign reporting. In October, the council approved sweeping changes to local campaign law to simplify the process and avoid confusion in future elections.

4 Comments

  1. The fact that 20 elected officials and candidates made the same mistake may indicate that San Jose’s campaign finance laws are too confusing, which reflects on its authors as well as those who passed them, yet still violated them. It may also mean that the 20 candidates and their campaign consultants are simply too stupid to be leading a city the size of San Jose. So they all blamed the City Clerk. In either event, rescinding Manh Nguyen’s fine was the right thing to do. Paying $30,000 of taxpayer money to look into what our City Attorney’s office should have done correctly in the first place shows yet again the professional weakness of that office and its leader, Rick Doyle. He has made so many blunders in the past one must ask yet again, why does he still hold that very high paying job?

  2. There are simply too many rules. . .it makes criminals of everyone. We spend more time trying to hang our opponents for their “ethics” violations than talking about real issues–like real crime, land-use, etc. From local to national politics our discourse has continued to digress; and a big part of it is the ethics police.

    • I fixed it for you, Rich.

      > “There are simply too many rules. . .it makes criminals of everyone. We spend more time trying to hang our opponents for their “[gun ownership]” violations than talking about real issues–like real crime, [property rights], etc. From local to national politics our discourse has continued to digress; and a big part of it is the [gun control] police.”