Oakland City Council District 3 is one of the most diverse in the city. Whoever wins in November will be charged to represent myriad interests.
What should the statute of limitations be on past transgressions for those currently seeking elected office?
On Oct. 10, 2010, Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby issued a Limited Public Financing Act (LPFA) Compliance Review for the Committee to Elect Sean Sullivan.
Sullivan was one of three candidates to receive public matching funds for Oakland's District 3 City Council race in June 2008.
LPFA provides a limited amount of public funds to assist eligible candidates in running for City Council offices. All candidates for City Council offices may apply for public matching funds if they are certified to appear on the ballot and if they have filed a statement with the city clerk indicating acceptance of a voluntary spending ceiling.
Sullivan's campaign submitted an invoice to the city auditor's office from a campaign vendor, dated May 20, 2008, for $4,459 and claimed to have paid the invoice in cash.
The audit verified the campaign's withdrawal of $4,459 in cash from the campaign account, which itself violates the California Fair Political Practices Commission regulations that prohibit cash withdrawals of more than $100 and cash payments of more than $100.
The city auditor's office also contacted the vendor directly to request all invoices sent to the campaign to verify the $4,459 invoice. The vendor sent only two invoices, neither of which was for $4,459. When asked about the missing invoices, the vendor informed us that their computer crashed in 2008 and some invoices were lost.
The city auditor's office informed the vendor that the campaign claimed to have made a cash payment to them for $4,459 and requested they provide proof of deposit from their bank for $4,459.
The vendor responded in writing that the bank did not find a payment or deposit for $4,459. Moreover, the vendor also stated in writing it never accepts cash payments from a customer nor did they accept $4,459 in a cash payment specifically from the Committee to Elect Sean Sullivan.
The campaign's claim that $4,459 in cash was used to pay the vendor could not be verified and has raised concerns of potential misuse of campaign funds, in addition to violating FPPC regulations for $100 cash withdrawals and payments.
It is my understanding that Sullivan has paid the $4,459 in question along with associated penalties.
When it comes to matters of public financing for local campaigns there are three levels of concern: volunteer mistakes, arrogance toward campaign law and fraud.
In the best-case scenario, without a viable explanation, Sullivan's 2008 campaign falls between arrogance and fraud. But this is 2012 and Sullivan, who again is running for the District 3 seat, has amassed a rather impressive list of political endorsements.
The elected officials and organizations endorsing Sullivan have obviously put any past transgressions behind them.
But the only endorsement that matters will be the one held on Nov. 6.
Contact Byron Williams at 510-208-6417 or email@example.com.