Palo Alto City Councilman Greg Tanaka has agreed to pay $733 in fines after the California Fair Political Practices Commission found inaccuracies in the financial forms his campaign filed during last year's council race.
The agency, which enforces the state's Political Reform Act, found that Tanaka's campaign had committed three violations in reporting contributions made during last fall's campaign season. In two cases, it had failed to disclose contributions of more than $1,000 within 24 hours, as the law requires.
Another violation stemmed from the campaign's failure to disclose the occupation and employer information of donors on a semi-annual filing that covered the period between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2016.
Tanaka, who finished second in the race for five council seats last November, had been under an investigation by the FPPC since February. The agency received a complaint early in the year alleging Tanaka failed to list occupations of several developers who had contributed to his campaign. The complaint also alleged that Tanaka failed to disclose a campaign sign as an "in-kind donation" and that he had not reported a personal loan to his campaign.
While the FPPC didn't make any rulings in regard to the latter two allegations, it concurred that Tanaka had failed to accurately list several occupations. The complaint specifically focused on contributions from developers Charles "Chop" Keenan, Jim Baer, Chase Rapp, Mark Gates, Jr., Joseph Martignetti and Perry Palmer and claimed that by misreporting the fact that they are developers, Tanaka had "misled the voting public."
After the Weekly reached out to him for comment, Tanaka posted a message on his Facebook page saying he was "proud and humbled to have received donations and support from hundreds of community members from various walks of life and backgrounds." He did not dispute the FPPC's findings and said his campaign has agreed to pay the $733 fine for what he characterized as "clerical errors."
"I want to personally apologize for these errors," Tanaka said. "As a first-time candidate for public office, I am now bettered (sic) informed of the reporting process. We ran a transparent campaign, but I regret that in these few instances we had clerical errors.
"I therefore accept the FPPC decision as fair and appropriate."
The $733 settlement includes three separate fines: a $299 fine for the non-disclosure of the contributors' occupations; and $264 and $210 for each instance of failing to report a contribution of $1,000 or more within 24 hours in the months leading up to last November's election.
Tanaka said in a statement that his campaign had filed the Form 497 declaring one of these $1,000 or greater contributions on Sept. 9, immediately after the City Clerk's office identified the error and informed his campaign of the 24-hour deadline.
The second error occurred after a donor added $750 to a prior contribution of $250, raising the amount to $1,000. Tanaka said the Oct. 5 addition was included on a Form 497 that was filed on Oct. 11.
Tanaka also attributed his campaign's failure to disclose the donors' occupations to "not researching" donor-described job titles.
"Our team learned that filing records are required to recognize donors using 'publicly known titles' and not (the ones) submitted on campaign donor forms, or 'unknown' if undeclared as directed in FPPC guidelines."
The FPPC resolved Tanaka's case through what is known as a "streamline settlement" -- a program that the commission approved two years ago to settle minor violations.
The commission is scheduled to approve the settlement with Tanaka and his campaign treasurer, Jeff Justice, at its Sept. 21 meeting.
Tanaka is one of three council members who were investigated by the FPPC after the November election. The commission closed its investigation against Councilman Adrian Fine in March after confirming that he had failed to include an FPPC identification number on an envelope of a campaign mailer (he did not face any penalties).
The FPPC is also investigating Vice Mayor Liz Kniss, who like Tanaka failed to list the occupations of many contributors and who did not disclose many of her contributions from developers until well after the election. The FPPC's investigation of Kniss' potential violations remains open.
• Editorial: A necessary investigation (March 17, 2017)