Bordonaro’s well-placed friends

March 29, 2010

Tom Bordonaro

(Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series about San Luis Obispo County Assessor and Republican politico Tom Bordonaro.)


Amidst allegations that San Luis Obispo County Assessor Tom Bordonaro has reportedly used his office and his foundation to enrich his friends, including some employees of a state agency that is responsible for overseeing his office, these same state employers said Bordonaro’s office did its duties with “integrity.”

Such a conclusion, CalCoastNews has learned, has brought to the forefront suspicions that some employees with the state Board of Equalization (BOE) have a financial and political conflict of interest in dealing with Bordonaro, a political powerhouse who is currently chair of the Republican Party in San Luis Obispo County.

The BOE is a state agency that performs regular audits on assessor offices statewide as part of its mission of making sure property taxes are assessed in a uniform manner.

Speculation that the BOE may have performed a whitewashed review of Bordonaro’s office have been fueled by charges that:

— Some high-ranking BOE officials travel annually to a plush Hawaiian resort for a political confab organized by Bordonaro’s political non-profit foundation.

— During their most recent review of Bordonaro’s office, BOE inspectors did not uncover that Bordonaro had underreported his own business assets or that he has allegedly asked his staff to provide assessor office favors to some of his friends.

— At least one member of the governing BOE panel and one ranking BOE staffer may have benefited financially by arranging the regular junkets for Bordonado’s foundation to the Hawaiian island of Maui.

The BOE review found no problems with business and property assessments by the assessor’s office of San Luis Obispo County.

“I don’t believe the BOE is capable of overseeing assessor offices in any level of detail that assures accountability,” said Lenny Goldberg, president of Californians for Tax Reform. “I think the BOE should have a much stronger role. There is a lack of accountability and oversight in the system.”

The conduct of the Assessor’s Office under Bordonaro’s tenure has left some in the know wondering what’s really going on.

“Bordonaro’s connections to people with the BOE make one question the accuracy of the audit,” said a county employee who asked to remain unnamed to protect his employment. “The BOE is a stand alone entity that is supposed to provide oversight.”

Among the concerns raised by critics and others is how, for example, after assessor employees rejected a Proposition 60 transfer they were asked to reevaluate their work. They originally rejected the request because it did not qualify through a specific formula.

But later, staffers were asked repeatedly to rework the numbers because the homeowner was the girlfriend of Bordonaro’s banker.

Bill Leonard, a former Republican lawmaker from Southern California and until recently a member of the BOE’s governing panel, and Barbara Alby his former deputy and a current panel member, have been under fire for their connection to the Pacific Policy Research Foundation, a non-profit founded by Bordonaro.

The foundation’s primary purpose for soliciting donations is to pay for a one-week junket to a Hawaiian luxury resort in Maui for lawmakers and lobbyists.

On March 9, Leonard stepped down from his seat on the BOE and was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as the secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency, pending Senate confirmation. In addition, Alby was appointed to fill Leonard’s seat on the BOE.

As board members, Leonard and Alby have a $250 limit on donations they can accept. However, Bordonaro’s foundation is not required to reveal its funding sources.

Businesses such as PG&E, Indian gaming tribes and Eli Lilly and Co. have all donated to the Pacific Policy Research Foundation.

Attendees in Hawaii discuss policy issues until around 12 noon and afterward are free to enjoy the many amenities at the $300-a-night resort.

Bordonaro serves as the Pacific Policy Research Foundation’s president; and its board includes his wife, Martha Bordonaro; Sherry Leonard, wife of Bill Leonard; and Republican state Sen. Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield, the anti-gay lawmaker recently arrested for DUI after leaving a gay bar.

In 2008, the non-profit solicited $365,000 in donations. Approximately $300,000 went toward conference expenses, according to the group’s tax returns. Sherry Leonard and Barbara Alby, who are partners in Pacific Events, received between $25,000 and $44,000 a year each for organizing the annual conference.

BOE spokeswoman Anita Gore said that Leonard’s and Alby’s affiliation with Bordonaro’s foundation did not influence the survey of his office.

“They had no involvement in the survey,” Gore said. “It was done at the staff level.”

Upon a request for more information about the survey, Gore provided CalCoastNews with a list of the 15 BOE staff members who worked on the two-month survey. The staffers included chief Dean Kinnee, property appraiser Benjamin Tang and Sally Boeck, a supervising property appraiser with the BOE.

Leonard and Alby were not on the list.

Following a CalCoastNews interview with Gore and Chief Deputy Alan LoFaso, both high-ranking employees of the BOE, someone from the state office warned Bordonaro that CalCoastNews was looking into suspicions that he and a number of his associates had not received accurate assessments.

LaFoso told CalCoastNews that he had mentioned the suspicions to two members of the BOE’s governing panel.

“I did not think they would say anything,” LaFoso said.

The next day, some “inside sources” told CalCoastNews that Bordonaro arrived in his office and began reviewing employee files of Assessor Office personnel.

“To the extent anyone has provided me with information in confidence, I intend to respect those wishes,” Bordonaro said when asked who in the BOE had given him a heads up about possible under-assessments.

This is not the first time Bordonaro has been the center of controversy.

In 1994, following Bordonaro’s successful run for state assembly, the Fair Political Practices Commission fined him for failing to disclose loans he received during his campaign.

In another contentious campaign for Congress against Democrat Lois Capps in 1998, Bordonaro received a reprimand after he tried to influence the vote by phone banking under a false name claiming to be a Democrat.

During an investigation by the Federal Elections Board, it was determined Bordonaro created the “Central Coast Democrats for Honest Representation.” His election staff then sent out a phone message that slammed Capps and asked voters to elect Bordonaro.

Even though the Federal Elections Board concluded that the allegations of “fraudulent misrepresentation” against Bordonaro were factual, they took no action against him.

In 2006, while serving as the San Luis Obispo County assessor, Bordonaro founded the Central Coast Taxpayers Association, a group primarily focused on promoting a Wal-Mart in Atascadero. Both the association’s vice-president and agent for service of process were also, at the same time, performing public relations duties for Wal-Mart.

Mike Brennler, the former mayor of Atascadero, sent complaints asking both the Attorney General’s Office and the Grand Jury to investigate allegations that Bordonaro was using his office as assessor to promote his Wal-Mart advocacy association.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s thanked Brennler for his letter and asked that he take his complaint to county government officials, who are “primarily responsible for citizen complaints against their employees or agencies,” according to the letter.

“At the very least I feel Bordonaro breached the assessor’s code of ethics because he commingled his official title and duties with the advocacy of a private business,” Brennler said. “I felt the evidence was strong in that regard.

“When the Attorney General suggested submitting the matter to the grand jury, I did just that. But apparently the matter was not addressed. I will argue the people of our county were not served by such inaction.”

In San Bernardino County, during the same time the BOE was performing a review of that county’s assessor office, their county grand jury was investigating reports of egregious behavior by the assessor and some of his high ranking staff. The BOE found that overall office operations were handled correctly in the San Bernardino Assessor Office.

However, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors commissioned an investigation that resulted in allegations the office was used to enrich the assessor and his allies and to create a political operation at taxpayer expense.  [TheSun]


And then there are no politicians receiving public union money. This is a great article, mostly based upon unfounded allegations by political opponents. Reach into your pocket book and run someone against him. If he was so bad, he would be in jail. It would be obvious.

Now take a look at Obama’s promises! Harry Reid had to bribe senators for their vote. But it was given to their states. Sort of looks like our California Senators did not hold out for us. Good for nothing.


“Unfounded allegations” …. How often have we heard that one?

Lets be blunt Spectator … This POS should be in jail.

… and quit trying to shift the topic to the federal arena. We need to focus on the crooks right here in river city.




SI-96/76 (1997)

84211 and 84216 – One (1) count

$1,250 fine

Tom Bordonaro, Jr., candidate for California State

Assembly in 1994, and his committee, Bordonaro for

State Assembly, and its treasurer, David L. Redman,

failed to properly disclose the source of two loans

received. This finding was uncovered during a

Franchise Tax Board audit of the committee.


Once upon a time we were taught that:

Politians cared about their people and country (The take and oath).

Police Officers were honest, heroic, and not officious (They take an oath).

Doctors would help heal you even if you could not afford to pay for it (They take an oath).

Bankers/ investment managers help people become more frugal and prudent (They post ethics).

There may have been a time theses individuals believe in what they were doing.

Or was it just another loop of BS recuring.

It is somewhat apparent this past decade that its all about power, greed, priviledges, and whatever else individuals can get away with.

People “need NOT wander” why this society is in the mess it is in.


If you want someone to run against Bordo as a write-in candidate, you’d better act fast because there is a deadline that has to be met. You can’t just write someone’s name in on a ballot, they have to fill out paperwork and declare themselves a candidate just like the candidates who file on time and appear on the ballot.

My thoughts are that there is legal and illegal and then there’s right and wrong. Many times things that are legal (especially in politics) are still wrong. And this Maui junket for the Board of Equalization and state Legislators paid for by corporations like PG&E is just plain wrong.

They could at least have this confab in California and keep the money local couldn’t they>

And remember, PG&E’s money comes out of the pockets of rate payers like you and me, so they are using our own money to corrupt our political system in their corporate interests (they don’t give a cut on electric bills when their property taxes are lowered, do they?).

Bordonaro must be investigated by the grand jury then he should be recalled. Where can I sign the petition?



spanked by the Federal Elections Commission. Link below

This guys gotta go!

Alpha Beta


Your link shows that no action was taken against Bordonardo by the FEC. How was he spanked ?


Perhaps they took no action because Bordonaro lost anyway. I suspect if the scam had been effective then it would have been a far different story.




inverse Condemnation

—————–Remember This is San Luis Obispo County!

Alpha Beta

Spanking is the same as saying punished. The FEC didn’t punish him.






SI-96/76 (1997)

84211 and 84216 – One (1) count

$1,250 fine

Tom Bordonaro, Jr., candidate for California State

Assembly in 1994, and his committee, Bordonaro for

State Assembly, and its treasurer, David L. Redman,

failed to properly disclose the source of two loans

received. This finding was uncovered during a

Franchise Tax Board audit of the committee. a TAX COLLECTOR SCAMMING ON HIS TAXES!


I read this and my thoughts turn to Sherwood Forest. We need a “Robin Hood” right about now.


It does not seem to matter whether its from the Left with Mullholland and Gibson or the Right with Katcho and Bordanaro, there seems to be a “fifth dimension” or parallel and unseen force that is in control of our county government and more importantly our county treasury. (and i am not a sci fi fan) The saddest thing is that these politicians seem to honestly think there is nothing wrong with what they are doing and will therefore continue as they have been. Just read what they say…..” Well, i cant be bought for a mere $44,000 dollars…you can’t buy my vote for that….but i certainly believe you have a strong position and i believe the state should provide you a tax rebate even though you didnt pay any taxes this year..” Again, we need a citizens review board with some teeth and a very public forum to surface these issues. Perhaps its an aggressive Grand Jury but its certainly not any of the existing county agencies or the district attorneys office. I truly believe we have the reincarnation of Tammany Hall or more likely Capones Chicago right here in little old SLO.


SSSam- They are riding on that thin line taking advantage of loop holes. It’s the game of catch us if you can and then you’ve got to prove we actually did something wrong. There is so much self serving and inappropiate behavior here that its stunning. It floors me that Tom actually created the “Central Coast Democrats for Honest Representation”,and then had his friends call all the dem’s and tell them to vote for him because they didn’t believe in the integrity of the person who was representing their own party. I’m sure they all thought it was a grand idea and Karl Rove would certainly applaud them. Why is it that none of these activities ever were reported in the Tribune (rhetorical question)?

I’m not certain what is going to be done about his Foundation and the BOE but we can all start with utilizing the “write in” vote for SLO County Tax Assessor when we cast our ballot’s. Hopefully people will organize and get this information out into the public mainstream. I have no doubt we can get plenty of media coverage. If we are going to “help ourselves” I think this would be the place to start. We need a candidate to run against him.


I agree cindy. Interestingly enough i believe one has to be registered to be a write in candidate. In the past, when there has not been an adequate candidate on the ballot for a given position i have written in Mickey and more recently Minnie Mouse as my choice, knowing that he/she would be a more responsible representative than any ot the others listed. I was crestfallen to learn that unless Mickey or Minnie has registered as a write in candidate, my vote for them did not count. To me that seems to go against the grain of the “write in” concept but hey its bureaucracy that rules these days. I have left messages with M/M on facebook and twitter urging them to register as write-ins. I will keep the community updated. Serioulsy, I would actively support an individual seeking the position as a write in candidate but he/she would need to get organized quickly. Hopefully Bordo can be indicted before November and save us the trouble


Yes I think your correct about a write in candidate needing to be registered. If we don’t find one in time we can always recall Bordnenaro later. A lot is riding on how fast all this information gets out into the main stream. Considering the Tribune has never reported any of it, this will be news to many SLO County voters.


Why do people insist on trying to impart some “balance” by showing that there is corruption on both the right and the left when the amount of corruption is no where near “balanced”? If we had Democratic politicians mired in the poop that the Republicans here in this article (and the one Dave linked to) there would be a hue and cry from Republicans for heads to roll, pronto! The apparent “truth” of the matter right now is that we have a county Assessor who has enriched himself, family and friends, has some murky ties to the state agency that is supposed to oversee his office, he heads up a foundation that allows him to receive and distribute untold sums of money with no oversight, and he is a Republican. There is no “balance” in the equation here, just blatant corruption that needs to be addressed, period. When a Democratic politician gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he (or she) will be dealt with then, but right now, right here, we have Tom Bordonaro who appears to be as guilty as hell at self serving corruption. How he is dealt with may very well determine how a future Democrat is dealt with.


Well Bob, the point i was making is that in our little county all the high level elected or appointed officials appear corrupt regardless of race religion sex sexual orientation political affiliation or cross dressing tendencies. Name one honest or honorable elected or appointed official that has significant “power” to wield in the county. Bordo is among the worst but the supervisors have turned a blind eye to all the corruption in the county and merely bemoan the fact that the rules prevent them from taking action. They chose to pay off their personal prostitute (wilcox) with taxpayer dollars rather than face the political consequences of her testimony in open court. Pavvo Ogren is still here. The list goes on and on. How many folks are still on paid administrative leave. Bob, keep reading what Karen is revealing and you tell me about “balance”.


This is what the Los Angeles Times reported about the Pacific Policy Research Foundation and their Maui conference in November 2007. I share this without comment for information purposes only.

SACRAMENTO — — When California companies feel squeezed by their state tax bill, Bill Leonard may be able to help: He is an elected member of a powerful board that can slash a corporation’s taxes by millions.

Leonard, who often votes with business interests, can’t accept much support from them at election time because of a $250 limit on donations to the board’s members. But businesses pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into a tiny Sacramento-area nonprofit where Leonard’s wife and his chief deputy both draw income.

Pacific Gas & Electric, Eli Lilly and Co., Amgen, the manufacturing lobby, distillers of alcoholic beverages and other businesses with multimillion-dollar matters before the Board of Equalization all have donated. A chunk of the money has been used to pay Leonard’s wife and his deputy to organize an annual gathering of lawmakers, lobbyists and their families at a luxury resort in Maui. This year’s event, which Leonard attended, wrapped up Friday.

“This seems like a way for large corporations to launder contributions to a member of the board,” said Lenny Goldberg, president of Californians for Tax Reform.

“It is improper and it should be illegal.”

Leonard, the only Board of Equalization member at this year’s conference, said he saw no problem with tens of thousands of dollars in corporate money going to his family’s bank account. The San Bernardino Republican says his wife, Sherry, has a right to earn a living.

“If a company wants to be inappropriate and come to me and say, ‘I helped your wife’s business, and by the way we have a tax matter coming up,’ I would throw them out of my office,” Leonard said. “I can’t imagine something like that happening. . . . Just because I chose to run for public office, is my wife forced to be a homemaker?”

Leonard’s deputy, Barbara Alby, and Sherry Leonard shared payments totaling $77,000 for organizing the Maui conference in 2005 and 2006, public tax records show. They will be paid roughly $40,000 for arranging the event — the sole function of their foundation — this year.

Alby said there was nothing wrong with sitting on the board of a group that solicits money from companies with business before her office.

Alby said she and Sherry Leonard are not directly involved in asking for donations, a task she said is handled by the other three directors of the nonprofit, the Pacific Policy Research Foundation. Alby and Sherry Leonard complete the foundation’s five-member board.

“I don’t know where the conflict is,” Alby said.

The former state senator who wrote the ethics laws that govern the Board of Equalization sees things differently.

“These board members are like judges,” said Quentin Kopp, now a retired judge. “I can’t imagine a judge presiding over a trial in which one of the parties was making these kind of payments.”

The law requires board members to recuse themselves from tax appeals involving any donor that has given them more than $250 in campaign money, or to return the contribution. Kopp said he regrets that the law he drafted does not apply to family or staff income derived from interests with matters before the board.

“I didn’t include it, but I wish I had,” he said.

Kopp says holding board members to strict ethical standards is important because the stakes are high. The value of property owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co., for example, is calculated each year by the board and is the basis for its tax bills. As a Board of Equalization member, Leonard, who is also a former legislator, votes on the size of those valuations.

PG&E paid $15,000 to the nonprofit in 2006 and $15,000 this year. Such donations cover the cost of bringing panelists to the conference and renting facilities, in addition to paying Alby and Sherry Leonard.

PG&E sent a senior government-affairs employee to the Maui conference last week, said spokeswoman Darlene Chiu.

“This foundation provides a forum and addresses issues that PG&E is interested in,” Chiu said.

PG&E disclosed its contribution in a public filing, but the Pacific Policy Research Foundation declined to disclose its donors, and state law does not require it to do so.

The Times learned of other donors through interviews with participants in this year’s Maui event, held at the beachfront Fairmont Kea Lani in upscale Wailea. Company representatives who attended were required to make a contribution to the foundation of at least $5,000, in addition to covering their own expenses for the trip, according to the nonprofit’s president, Tom Bordonaro, who served in the Legislature with Leonard.

Among the firms that did so was liquor company Diageo, which had much at stake in the Board of Equalization’s August decision to raise taxes on flavored alcohol drinks, such as the company’s Smirnoff Ice. The board increased the tax from 2 cents to 31 cents per bottle; Leonard, breaking with the majority to side with liquor companies, voted against the tax.

Leonard, one of two Republicans on the tax panel, has voted for business interests on key matters. Against the advice of the tax board’s staff, Leonard cast a vote that forced the state to give nearly two dozen manufacturing companies, including Hewlett-Packard and Intel, tens of millions of dollars in tax rebates — even though the companies had paid no income taxes for the years in question.

In Maui, donors to the foundation were able to rub shoulders with Leonard all week. He joined 16 members of the Assembly and Senate at the conference, which left every afternoon free for golf, tennis, snorkeling, cocktails and other leisure activities.

Many legislators use campaign funds to cover the costs of the trip for themselves and their families. But many of the businesses that contribute to the Pacific Policy Research Foundation routinely pick up the tab for the dinners, drinks and greens fees of state officials attending the Maui events, according to lobbying reports filed by the companies.

This year’s Maui attendees discussed “energy in the climate change era,” “healthcare reform” and “jail diversion for mentally ill offenders,” according to the agenda. Speakers included a Chevron vice president, PG&E’s director of state government relations and the lobbyist for Environment California.

“I really think we should have more of these conferences,” Leonard said. “Once legislators get sworn in, they stop talking. This is about the only occasion where the doors are closed, they can listen to experts and learn something.”


So, this is a surprise, how? A North County good ‘ole boy is enriching himself, his family, his friends, he has connections to the state agency that is supposed to oversee assessors offices in the state, he has a foundation that can hide every penny that comes in and can be spent on almost anything, for anyone, for any reason? Wow. Is it too late for a write-in candidate for the Assessor’s office? And for the first time I have ever thought about it, I am jealous of what they have in San Bernardino County; a board of Supervisors with a spine, a Grand Jury that can actually put out a case, and a District Attorney that can follow through; why can’t we have that?


Does ANYONE do ANYTHING about this pattern of corruption-He gets another pass!?This guy’s dishonest and padding his friends and their wives with cash from BENEFIT MONEY! What a scum bag-head of the gop? doesn’t surprise me at all…

McCarthy and Boronado love gaming those Indian Tribes for donations-promises promises…