San Jose’s Ethics Commission has launched an investigation into dozens of elected leaders and candidates who flouted local election law.
Commissioners chose to target 40 people in a single fell swoop instead of waiting on people to file separate complaints against each rule-breaker. Scores of candidates and virtually the entire City Council have broken local election code by improperly reporting late campaign donations.
City Clerk Toni Taber nearly lost her job over the fiasco after it came to light that she misguided candidates, telling them to adhere to state law instead of stricter local rules on reporting contributions.
The problem surfaced after someone filed a complaint about missing campaign filings against Manh Nguyen, who won the District 4 council seat in a special election this past June. The Ethics Commission—unaware of the dozens of other unwitting scofflaws—found him guilty as charged and stuck him with a $10,000 fine.
Nguyen blamed Taber, who admitted she steered him wrong and urged commissioners to forgive the 10-grand judgment. State law requires candidates to report contributions of $1,000 or more within 24 hours, while city law requires the same for donations of $250 or more.
Commission chair Michael Smith seemed open to the idea of dismissal when the board met Wednesday, but he deferred a decision until the other violators have been investigated, too.
Someone also filed a complaint against Nguyen’s opponent in the District 4 council race, Tim Orozco, which pointed to more than a dozen missing filings that could merit anywhere from a $1,000 minimum to a $14,000 penalty.