SLO County supervisors violate campaign disclosure laws

March 28, 2014
Adam Hill

Adam Hill

By KAREN VELIE

Two members of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors violated the Political Reform Act this year, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

Developer Gary Grossman donated $1,000 to Adam Hill  the same week the supervisor attended a groundbreaking for one of Grossman’s Pismo Beach developments. Even so, on Hill’s campaign disclosure form Grossman is listed as retired.

Because of the misstatement, Hill is required to return Grossman’s $1,000 donation.

On Tuesday, the FPPC sent warning letters to Hill and Supervisor Caren Ray. Ray violated campaign disclosure rules by failing to provide addresses for some of her donors, including Grossman who has donated more than $14,000 to Ray’s campaign.

During the last reporting period, Hill received $22,899 in donations, primarily from developers with projects in front of the county and business owners with contracts with the county. Contributors include Grossman — seeking to develop the former Dalidio Ranch, Postcard Properties — which is working to build a hotel in Avila Beach, developer Andy Mangano, Ryan Comerford – has the golf course management contract for several county courses and Frank Kelton who contracts for ambulance services.

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Kevin Rice

In a nakedly biased attack, the Tribune accused candidate Lynn Compton of using a loophole to skirt campaign sign regulations after she “wrapped” a vehicle with an advertisement decal promoting her campaign. Caren Ray supporters have eagerly piled on to this ignorant and anti-Constitutional notion.


Let’s address this:


The U.S. Supreme Court in City of Ladue v. Margaret Gilleo (1994), struck down a city law prohibiting signs, writing that political yard signs are “a venerable means of communication that is both unique and important. … Especially for persons of modest means or limited mobility, a yard or window sign may have no practical substitute. … Even for the affluent, the added costs in money or time of taking out a newspaper advertisement, handing out leaflets on the street, or standing in front of one’s house with a handheld sign may make the difference between participating and not participating in some public debate.”


The extraordinary costs of advertising in a SLO County supervisor election are directly implicated by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court struck down Ladue’s sign ordinance because it prohibited an important and fundamental means of Constitutionally protected political free speech. Lynn Compton has an identical interest in getting her message out just the same as Margaret Gilleo in Ladue, Missouri. The Courts have stated that regulations making free speech cost-prohibitive are unconstitutional. Reaching 60,000 voters with a vehicle sign is cost-effective and constitutionally protected.


In Curry v. Prince George’s County (1999), a federal court invalidated a sign ordinance limiting the posting of political campaign signs to 45 days before and up to 10 days after an election, writing, “There is no distinction to be made between [this] and City of Ladue … When political campaign signs are posted on private residences, they merit the same special solicitude and protection established for cause signs in City of Ladue.


In Arlington County Rep. Cmte. v. Arlington County (1993), the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated a county law that imposed a two-sign limit for each residence. The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled in City of Painesville Bldg. Dept. v. Dworken & Berstein Co. (2000> that requiring the removal of signs within 48 hours after an election is unconstitutional as applied to posting signs on private property.


The Painesville Court wrote, “Although the Supreme Court has not considered the issue, the overwhelming majority of courts that have reviewed sign ordinances imposing durational limits for temporary political signs tied to a specific election date have found them to be unconstitutional.”


Recent court rulings have thrown out many, many ordinances designed to restrict the time, place, and manner of political free speech. Lynn Compton has a fundamental Constitutional right to display campaign messaging influencing voters.


PARKING ON PUBLIC STREETS


There is no question that municipalities have the right to (somewhat) regulate the manner and time of vehicle parking on public streets. Yet, there is no sign stating “PARKING OKAY, EXCEPT VEHICLES WITH SIGNS ON THEM”. Further, no local ordinance regulates signage on vehicles (and cannot due to lack of jurisdiction–see below). Lynn Compton can certainly do what every other individual and business in the county is entitled to do: advertise on their vehicles. Thousands of vehicles have advertisements on them. It’s not a “loophole”.


“LOOPHOLE” VERSUS JURISDICTION

The term “loophole” is often applied when a law fails to conceive of a particular situation that otherwise was intended to be regulated. A party exploits a “loophole” when they purposefully create the conditions necessary to evade the law.


In order for a “loophole” to exist, it would need to be shown that the legislative intent in adopting local sign ordinances was to include public streets. That is not the case locally. There is nothing in the history of our local ordinance adoption that indicates the intent was to regulate signs on vehicles.


“Jurisdiction” is a legal term applicable when a court, municipality or agency has authority to regulate. An example of jurisdiction is SLO City’s prohibition on smoking in public. However, travel in a vehicle is interstate commerce—a matter of federal jurisdiction. Hence, SLO City cannot prohibit smoking in a vehicle, even when driving or parked on city streets.


In the case of Lynn Compton’s vehicular sign, there is no “loophole”, and there is no “jurisdiction”. Local municipalities do not have original jurisdiction over conduct related to vehicles, which is interstate commerce. And even if that were not true, Section 22507(a) of the Vehicle Code states that an “ordinance … shall not apply until signs or markings giving adequate notice thereof have been placed.”


Indeed, in Homes on Wheels v. City of Santa Barbara (2004), the Court spoke of Section 22507(a), writing (at p. 1179), “[A] motorist, unaware of the restrictions, county enter the City, park on a non-posted street and be cited. That is the classic trap for the unwary that the Legislature wanted to prevent.” That ruling was relied on to rule against the City of SLO in their homeless sleeping in cars fight (SLO Homeless Alliance v. City of SLO (2012)).


Lynn Compton was ignorantly attacked by the biased editors of The Tribune for doing what is legal, proper, and Constitutionally protected. She chose an effective and cost-efficient means of advertising her candidacy, thus serving the community need to have informed voters. Opponents—without any more basis than dislike—have tried to re-frame Constitutional political speech as a violation of the law… but even opponents recognize no law was violated, so they have resorted to innuendo and ad hominem and invoked poetic fallacy by improperly using loaded terms like “loophole”.


1inthemiddle

That is a very I testing essay with even some of the cases actually having application. As I am no legal scholar, closer to a simple county boy, I am not in a position to entry a lengthy debate on the subject.


What does seam clear is that there are standing, unchallenged (currently) local laws that regulate the posting of political signs. These include a prohibition on public right of way. As the law did not anticipate a mobile trailer parked on a city street for advertising purposes the opportunity exists to do so. Placing a sign on a trailer for political advertising and parking it on a public street is legal it is just not in the spirit of the law that it circumvents. A 5000 word essay will not change the reality of the act, legal or otherwise.


kettle

1inthemiddle says:”That is a very I testing essay with even some of the cases actually having application. As I am no legal scholar, closer to a simple county boy, I am not in a position to entry a lengthy debate on the subject. ”


Why are you deceveing people? A revew of this and past Ray related comments shows that you post more comments than ANYONE else (only about Ray). I would vote for her but your claim that you are not involved leads me to question the motives and morals of this “simple county boy”.

More comments of wholesale defence will not change the reality of the act, you are an offical player and I bet $ that you and Caren are on a first name basis.


How many threads have you capped? (running out of space).


It’s called Astroturfing (thou protest too much) and you are doing it.


1inthemiddle

Well it’s a very biased group here so I respond to the attempts to substitute opinion, innuendo and conjecture for fact as they come. I’m on a first name basis with lots of people but that does not change the fact that I act alone to poke holes in the arguments and bring balance. I see imbalance in the posts here, one might be able to suggest the whole site is designed to do what you claim I do. I claimed Ray is responsible for her 460 errors. I have spoke out against Hill and if Byrd were treated to the same types of attracts I would poke holes in those too.

Approach things in a balanced way and it will not seem like I am not.


Kevin Rice

For the record, my post is 931 words, not 5,000.


Justducky

Coulda fooled me, Kev. You certainly are passionate about Ms. Compton:))


1inthemiddle

So that we have now concluded that these vehicles, trucks and trailers, were used for political purposes to get the word out. And the 460 filing shows the costs of wrapping these vehicles, I wonder how the actual costs were accounted for. Were the brand new trucks and trailers purchased, rented, gifted, loaned? We don’t know, because they are not on the 460 filing.

Perhaps someone more knowledgable than I can explain the FPPC rules on such things.


Kevin Rice

If they weren’t personal vehicles, they would be reported as a campaign expense.


Most persons find the difference between putting a signpost in the ground and parking a vehicle self-evident. Parking is entirely in the spirit of the law and the purpose of street shoulders. Labeling a parked car as a “loophole” is disingenuous, at best.


1inthemiddle

Not sure about the trailers as I did not pay attention but the pickups parked with them were all brand new Chevys. I suppose they could have purchased new trucks and trailers as personal vehicles and used them for this purpose.


pasoman2

Lets look at this,

Attends groundbreaking,then receives donation.

I think maybe this Supervisor has his own agenda.

Just my thoughts!


achillesheal

Local politicians are the same as state and federal. Give them cash and curry favor. Protection money so one can do business just like paying off the mob. Obama is the capo de tutti capos (boss of bosses) these local flunkies are the equivalent of mafia foot soldiers. Our government is organized crime. Is anyone ever surprised?


pasodowny

1middle: Last time I checked, this story was about Caren Ray and Caren Ray’s “mentor” Adam Hill getting reprimanded by the Fair Political Practices Commission for not telling the public the campaign money they received came from developers.


Amazingly, it was also covered in the SLO Trib. A story of deception. About Caren Ray and Adam Hill.


Kinda hard to spin it some other way.


1inthemiddle

While I doubt the tribune would have picked up on this story, I’m sure CCN would have as it fits within the mission of transparent government.

I suppose I jumped the gun a bit.


1inthemiddle

While we can debate the seriousness of Rays filing error, we have proof of intentional deception in campaigning from Compton’s 460. Here over $10,000 is listed as being spent for paid endorsements on slate cards. These are those official looking mailers you all will be getting soon from important conscientious authoritative sounding groups that have a list of carefully reviewed candidates they say you should vote for. This is the equivalent of a paid doctor promoting some late nite sexual performance pill. It’s a sham and deceptive and this candidate has spent a chunk of money to sell you.


kayaknut

Funny how for one candidate they are just errors and for another they are intentional deception, with no proof of the “intentional” or “deception” part, but then again there is no proof of the just “filling errors: either. Nice sliding scale it seems, but then again I guess it depends on just who’s candidate does what.


1inthemiddle

One case there is room to question.

The other case is $10,000 listed on the 460 for slates and 14 different ones listed including ones that have a national reputation for deception. Easy to look up on google.


You take someone skirting local political sign posting rules and ad buying slates that present themselves as democrat voter guides and it gives you a pretty good picture.


kayaknut

I guess it just depends on the tint of your rose color glasses.


Kevin Rice

So you call full disclosure by Compton “deception”, and failure to disclose is upstanding? Weird.


1inthemiddle

Well I’m glad you agree with me that Compton has disclosed her intent to use deceptive practices.

It is not the disclosure that is deceptive. It is the outcome. She has full disclosed that she plans to use deceptive means to sway less informed voters. I agree.


Our elected officials need to be held to a higher standard, whether it’s sloppy and erroneous filings or skirting sign posting laws, or using shady means to sway voters. Your work is part of the process of saying this is unacceptable. The slate issue is just one more.


kayaknut

You must be using a different tint of glasses because I in no way see a acceptance of use of deceptive practices. It just depends on your spin and you did a fine job of spinning.


I do agree officials should be held to a higher standard and so far those running that are in office have failed too many times to be allowed to continue their ways.


1inthemiddle

Haha, thanks. It’s a fun game. But in all seriousness, as a group, blue, red, or purple, we should not tolerate that type of stuff. Our message should be that we expect better.

I’m not sure about your blanket statement about the elected officials, but I’m sure we can agree on some.

I think the republicans have been saddled with a candidate they really didn’t want (in fact I know that, but that’s another story) There are real live conservatives working there way through, getting experience that could have and should have had a shot. Financial influence bought the spot on the ballot and that is disappointing.


Kevin Rice

Caren Ray violated the law. Compton did not.


It’s so bizarre that anyone would believe legally putting an advertising wrap on a vehicle is “skirting” a law. It’s 110% legal. It just goes to demonstrate that some people think anything they personally don’t like is “a loophole”. Where is your PROOF that the body that created the existing laws wanted or intended to regulate signs on vehicles?


Furthermore, it’s scary that you believe a Constitutional right can/should be banned. Political speech is the most protected type of free speech. That clearly includes slates too. An informed electorate is required in June, and the more knowledge of the candidates, the better.


1inthemiddle

Trying to undermine the the validity of a position by by attacking the writer with distortion is not a valid argument method.


Kevin Rice

Another non-sequitur. I attacked your position, not you.


1inthemiddle

My proof is that they wanted do and did regulate placement of political advertising. Because wraps were not an issue, they are now a loophole.

Local ordinances regulate political signs in size, location, and time of placement. Additionally they indicate it is illegal for political signs to be placed in the right-of-way. Even companies who wrap vehicles call them mobile signs.

Parking a wrapped trailer on a public street for political advertising is the very definition of legal loophole.


“An omission or Ambiguity in a legal document that allows the intent of the document to be evaded.”


If you are fine with that then there is not much to say.


Kevin Rice

You just don’t like Compton, come hell or high water.


It may shock you to learn that the Courts have struck down many ordinances regulating the size, time and placement of political signs as unconstitutional. Furthermore, the city/county has no jurisdiction to regulate a sign on a vehicle on a public street. I will post a longer reply on this subject at the top of this thread.


1inthemiddle

That is not true for me. The heart of my battle is that the relevant issues are not whether Ray had coffee with Hill before she was appointed or Compton smart or sly enough to exploit a legal loophole. Those are both distractions. I push for a fair review of the candidates positions, past performance in Rays case, and experience.


It would be easy to say you have the take-down-Ray no matter what attitude yourself. You set the game, I have just been trying to play it with you. You want to change the rules, that was my point from the beginning.


jms3211

I can see in my minds eye who the 3 dissenting/dislike votes are from…..These folks don’t like the idea of an informed electorate! If we only knew!


1inthemiddle

Where do wrapped signs and slates designed to mislead fit into informing an electorate?


Kevin Rice

A debatable point…


What evidence do you have indicating Caren Ray doesn’t plan to purchase slates? Caren Ray’s consultant (Chris Crotty) very much made slates a part of Adam Hill’s race—like the “Republican Voter Guide” slate Adam Hill purchased in 2012.


It’s unfortunate that slates have pervaded their way into election day, but it’s also reality. Slates are very cost-effective because costs are shared by the multiple candidates and measures on the slate. Slates only carry one candidate per race. Buying into a slate means your opponent cannot. Whoever buys first gets the advertising.


I certainly believe Caren Ray is as likely to purchase a slate as Compton or Adam Hill, or anyone else for that matter. It can be argued that Compton made an excellent tactical move to buy slates before her opponent.


Unless you can show slates weren’t/aren’t in Ray’s plans, you can’t declare one or the other “better” over this subject.


1inthemiddle

It’s also more cost effective to fake your resume than attend a college but that’s a pretty low bar for justification.


Kevin Rice

Non-sequitor.


1inthemiddle

Come on your better than that. That’s not even close to logical argument. Where is Mary when we need her to point out the fallacy.


1inthemiddle

Facts based on opinions are not worth a whole lot.


Kevin Rice

So you have no fact-based evidence then?


LameCommenter

Slates are fair game, used almost universally in local and regional politics, so that doesn’t make Compton bad, and while slates may not be the highest zenith of candidate quality, they are also easily digested and discerned by thinking voters and therefore of little impact, and so…..uh, what’s that, we elected the moderate-talking BUT extremist-governing president twice?


Uh, the part about “thinking voters”. Sorry. I retract. Never mind. Carry on. Ban slates.


unlisted

Yes, never underestimate the stupidity of American voters.


zaphod

speaking for yourself


Slowerfaster

H. L. Mencken.


Underestimating the intelligence of American voters is a grand tradition.


Bet the ‘under’ …Nixon, Reagan ( X2 ), G H W Bush, G W Bush ( X 2 ! ).


Clinton ( X 2 ) and Obama ( X 2 ), not much better…lesser evils.


JB Bronson

The Tribune came out with this story today. Thanks Tribune, but I got this two days ago from CCN.


With warm weather not far away, I won’t need a firestarter till next Winter.


willieslo

Dear Mr. Hill


A part of you tried to be a good politician

The other half drank the wine, this is where you failed!


rogerfreberg

it reminds me of Senator Yee of San Francisco –whom I respected although disagreed on a few issues. He did support more transparency in government.


The thought of really knowing what is going on in our county government… is really scary. When we see the actions of the three stooges… we only wonder what is REALLY going on??


Pelican1

Several idioms come to mind when it comes to Adam and the government like:

It’s a license to steal.

What…me worry?

Catch me… if you can

I am not a crook

It was a clerical error.

I’ve been framed.

That was not my intent.

“Not only the superficially educated and narrow minded,

Not only bumpkins with bad breath and worse teeth, not only the

gullible and aggrieved, not only those who are nostalgic for

a past that never was, not only those who are afraid of

losing control….”

Spoken like a drowning man…who NO ONE will toss a life preserver.


Kevin Rice

“It was a clerical error” has been claimed by Caren Ray.


Swap that one for “It is a lesson this Jersey boy is doomed to repeat”


Or, possibly: As a native of New Jersey, I tend to speak as fast as I think


Pelican1

I’ll keep that in mind as I write my new book…”Idioms For Idiots.”


Kevin Rice

Is that a sequel to “Diatribe for Dummies”?


Pelican1

No, the first book was “Medallions for Morons”.


Kevin Rice

A great best seller, it was.


1inthemiddle

An interesting and somewhat hypocritical analysis is going on here. Yes, Supervisor Ray had incorrectly put PO boxes as addresses when the form requires street addresses and no matter which volunteer may have made the error the responsibility ultimately falls to her. But, I’m not sure this is the equivalent to Watergate as some would like to portray it.

This is the same group who go on about overbearing government regulation and control and the costly burdens of such. Here is a case where a candidate made a procedural error in a form that inspired another person to dig through records, file forms, get some bureaucrats to look into it and generate a letter while another filing is made. Some serious inequity exists. I know this will get some evil incompetent Caren Ray response, but geez folks, really?


Kevin Rice

More spin and dodge. The ultimate responsibility less with the candidate, who signs a verification statement on the forms, who is in control of the campaign, and who took the money, and who was named in the FPPC warning.


There is no hypocrisy in paying by the rules. Yet, we have pro-regulation liberals arguing against the need to do so? Hmmm.