Did SLO city attorney misinterpret state transparency laws?

February 24, 2019

Christine Dietrick

By KAREN VELIE

During Tuesday’s council meeting, San Luis Obispo City Attorney Christine Dietrick voiced her support of council members’ decisions not to disclose a fundraiser hosted by one of the applicants for a marijuana retail shop permit. [Cal Coast Times]

On Oct. 28, Helios Dayspring and his marijuana brand Natural Healing Center hosted a fundraiser for eight politicians including Heidi Harmon, Carlyn Christianson and Erica Stewart. Even though the cost of the fundraiser was over $1,500, none of the candidates disclosed the event on their financial disclosure forms.

After residents of the city voiced concerns about the lack of transparency, including the failure to disclose the fundraiser, Dietrick dismissed their concerns as unfounded saying she researched the issue and determined that neither Harmon, Christianson or Stewart were required to report the fundraiser as a non-monetary donation.

“Contributions as defined under the Political Reform Act don’t include the cost of campaign fundraiser events that are under $500,” Dietrick said. “So, I believe the particular fundraiser event was for eight separate candidates. Typically the way the FPPC handles that is to apportion the total cost among the beneficiaries.”

Dietrick said she concluded if the cost of the food was $1,500, and there were no other significant costs associated with the fundraiser, the cost divided by eight candidates fell below the $500 limit.

“And so under the city’s regulation, because we incorporate the contribution definition by the FPPC regs, not a combination as defined, and therefore not reportable was the conclusion we reached on that issue,” Dietrick said.

Generally, candidates must disclose all non-monetary donations, with a few exceptions. If a person hosts a fundraiser at their home, and the total cost is under $500, the candidates do not need to report the cost of the event.

However, according to the FPPC, all fundraisers with a cost over $500 require disclosure on Form 460, regardless of the number of candidates.

“For the home/office fundraiser contribution exception to apply, the total cost of the event must be $500 or less no matter how many candidates or committees benefit from the event,” according to a tip on the FPPC website.

A Cal Coast reporter sent a link to the FPPC website and the page where information about the fundraiser exemption is listed to Dietrick. She responded noting that reading the above tip did not clarify the issue for her.

“The tip in the link still seems somewhat unclear,” Dietrick responded. “We’ll also follow up with the FPPC on Monday to get clarification on whether any amendments need to be made to filings.”

In 1974, California passed the Political Reform Act to try to curb corruption by eliminating secret or anonymous contributions. It requires candidates to disclose both monetary and non-monetary campaign donations on Form 460.


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kayaknut

Another coverup by Christine Dietrick so we all know another raise for her is just around the corner.


PaulJones

Is Dietrick really this bad at understanding simple concepts, or is she working to hide the fact that the people who vote to give her raises violated the law?


Ricky2

This city attorney has quite a record of denying the public interest and hiding council privilege behind “laws” of her own interpretation. Ethics? Forget it — she would NEVER suggest the city or the council just do the right or ethical thing. She’s rotten on conflict of interest, rotten on Brown Act, rotten on honest open campaigning, rotten on public notification, rotten on development, and on and on down the list. She’s the worst city attorney SLO has had in ages, and she needs to go. But that will not happen since she’s hired by the very council members whose behinds she covers. So, looks like another reason for a clean sweep in 2020 election.


DocT

Corruption is necessary for progress. Don’t take away our corruption! We need it in order to do the things we do.


The only difference between a legal contribution and a bribe is paperwork, and that only becomes important if you get caught.


Please, Christine Dietrick, PLEASE protect our corruption! We can’t have honest people getting marijuana permits or doing business in any of our cities. We need ex-felons and people comfortable with bribery and under-the-table payments. We don’t want honest, locals engaged in business around here.


Hands off our corruption!


TKG

Can you say “coverup”?


rukidding

Better safe than sorry! It will be interesting to see if the FPPC does render an opinion as they too can be a little flaky at times. In their handbook that every elected official gets and some of the questions on the test that they have to take every 2 years there are several questions regarding issues like this. At times the FPPC will state that the action may be legal but that they strongly recommend that they be disclosed as it is truly an ethical issue and should be disclosed even though it may have been legal. Sounds like the FPPC has been around SLO. Most elected officials are honest and do their best and try to be more saferthan sorry when reporting. But here in SLO there are some bad apples who think they can get away with anything and so far it appears that they have got away with almost everything. But in due time these Humpty Dumpty’s will fall off the wall but their mess will be something and take along time to clean up.


hotdog

Way past time for a new city attorney. When anything serious comes up she is so incompetent she farms out the work to real lawyers, why don’t we have one?


scoopone

Another example of the city staff controlling the council, which is a large part of what is wrong with that picture!!


Julie

The city attorney should not be sending time on any of this. She doesn’t represent the elected officials, she represents the city. Not one thin dime should be billed to the public for her time on this –if it is it’s gifting public funds. These individuals should be getting their own representation and/or advice from the FPPC directly.


analyticone

Agreed, but I would go one step further, Julie. The city attorney does not represent the city as an agency or as city hall. The city attorney represents the people of the community – those who own the institution which is city hall. The city attorney’s job is to ensure that the Council and city hall are obeying the laws put in place to protect the people from their government and others who would seek to pervert the law.


shishkabob141

That would be nice, but Tim Carmel, former city attorney for Arroyo Grande only worked to cover the behinds of Tony Ferrara, Teresa McClish & City Manager Adams when ‘ol Steve was caught with his tea party partner in city hall the night before a holiday weekend. No way in H*LL was he representing the citizens of the city when a little *wink* “internal investigation” was hastily performed and no evidence of wrongdoing was found. These attorneys work for the people who hire them…period.