News

Palo Alto mayor faces state fine over campaign disclosures

Fair Political Practices Commission also receives complaints against three City Council members

The state Fair Political Practices Commission has issued a $402 fine to Mayor Tom DuBois over not filing a required semiannual disclosure form in 2019. Embarcadero Media file photo.

Palo Alto Mayor Tom DuBois is facing a $402 fine for twice failing to file semiannual reports on behalf of his campaign in 2019, a year after he secured his election to a second term on the City Council.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission has levied the fine against DuBois after receiving a complaint against him from Kelsey Banes, a housing advocate and executive director of Peninsula for Everyone. The resolution of the complaint against DuBois' is listed on the FPPC's "streamline" calendar for the Feb. 18 meeting. The listing includes relatively minor violations that are quickly resolved by the agency's Enforcement Division and that do not require a vote by the commission.

The agency found that DuBois, who successfully ran for reelection in 2018, kept his campaign open in 2019 but did not file the required semiannual disclosure form.

DuBois' campaign had reported $278 in expenditures in the first half of 2019 and $59 in expenditures in the second half of the year. The FPPC's stipulation agreement states that he has since filed all the necessary forms and that the investigation showed "no intent to conceal."

DuBois told this news organization that council members usually receive reminders from the city clerk about filing the semiannual forms. Because he moved twice last year, he did not get the reminders and he forgot to file the statements on behalf of his campaign.

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"I wanted to keep the committee open, but forgot to file the semiannual statements," DuBois said. "Everyone has their own view on what's material and what's not. It is a shame to see this become so politicized."

DuBois' violation differs from another disciplinary action that the FPPC is set to approve on Thursday: a $4,500 fine against former City Council member Liz Kniss that follows a four-year investigation.

The fine against Kniss is scheduled to be approved by the commission Thursday on its regular agenda, which is reserved for more serious violations. Kniss was accused of collecting and failing to report $19,340 in contributions that she had received in the weeks before the 2016 election, mostly from developers and builders. She did not report these contributions until Jan. 11 and cited the fact that her treasurer was undergoing rehabilitation in October as the reason for her campaign's failure to disclose the funding.

The FPPC did not penalize her for this omission, though it levied a $2,000 fine against her for failing to list occupations or employers of dozens of contributors and a $2,500 fine for using her personal bank account for campaign expenditures.

DuBois is one of at least four current council members who have been the subject of FPPC complaints in recent months. The commission's Enforcement Division has also received a complaint against council member Lydia Kou, who successfully ran for reelection in 2020, and has opened an investigation into whether she committed any violations. Two other council members who ran last year — Greer Stone and Pat Burt — are also subject to recent complaints to the FPPC, though the agency has not yet determined whether to launch investigations.

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In all of these cases, the 2020 candidates are accused of failing to disclose certain contributions or file campaign forms by mandated deadlines, though in all of these cases the contributions were ultimately disclosed well before the election.

Kou, for example, filed her "intention statement" on April 26, 2020, but didn't file a formal form to establish a campaign committee until June 4, by which time she had collected about $11,800 in donations, according to the complaint.

The complaint against Stone alleges that he has been running a campaign without filing either an intention statement or a campaign statement. Records from the city show, however, that the city received Stone's form to establish a committee on June 18 and he filed his intention statement on Aug. 7, 2020, according to his campaign filings.

Burt is accused of being late in filing three disclosure reports that include donations of more than $1,000, requiring disclosures within 24 hours. The complaint pertains to a $1,000 contribution he received from Jeanne Fleming on Oct. 5 and to a pair of $1,900 contributions that his campaign received from Helyn MacLean and Asher Waldfogel on Oct. 26. Burt disclosed the Fleming contribution on Oct. 7, outside the 24-hour window, and he disclosed the contributions from MacLean and Waldfogel on Oct. 29, the forms show.

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Palo Alto mayor faces state fine over campaign disclosures

Fair Political Practices Commission also receives complaints against three City Council members

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Feb 18, 2021, 9:10 am

Palo Alto Mayor Tom DuBois is facing a $402 fine for twice failing to file semiannual reports on behalf of his campaign in 2019, a year after he secured his election to a second term on the City Council.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission has levied the fine against DuBois after receiving a complaint against him from Kelsey Banes, a housing advocate and executive director of Peninsula for Everyone. The resolution of the complaint against DuBois' is listed on the FPPC's "streamline" calendar for the Feb. 18 meeting. The listing includes relatively minor violations that are quickly resolved by the agency's Enforcement Division and that do not require a vote by the commission.

The agency found that DuBois, who successfully ran for reelection in 2018, kept his campaign open in 2019 but did not file the required semiannual disclosure form.

DuBois' campaign had reported $278 in expenditures in the first half of 2019 and $59 in expenditures in the second half of the year. The FPPC's stipulation agreement states that he has since filed all the necessary forms and that the investigation showed "no intent to conceal."

DuBois told this news organization that council members usually receive reminders from the city clerk about filing the semiannual forms. Because he moved twice last year, he did not get the reminders and he forgot to file the statements on behalf of his campaign.

"I wanted to keep the committee open, but forgot to file the semiannual statements," DuBois said. "Everyone has their own view on what's material and what's not. It is a shame to see this become so politicized."

DuBois' violation differs from another disciplinary action that the FPPC is set to approve on Thursday: a $4,500 fine against former City Council member Liz Kniss that follows a four-year investigation.

The fine against Kniss is scheduled to be approved by the commission Thursday on its regular agenda, which is reserved for more serious violations. Kniss was accused of collecting and failing to report $19,340 in contributions that she had received in the weeks before the 2016 election, mostly from developers and builders. She did not report these contributions until Jan. 11 and cited the fact that her treasurer was undergoing rehabilitation in October as the reason for her campaign's failure to disclose the funding.

The FPPC did not penalize her for this omission, though it levied a $2,000 fine against her for failing to list occupations or employers of dozens of contributors and a $2,500 fine for using her personal bank account for campaign expenditures.

DuBois is one of at least four current council members who have been the subject of FPPC complaints in recent months. The commission's Enforcement Division has also received a complaint against council member Lydia Kou, who successfully ran for reelection in 2020, and has opened an investigation into whether she committed any violations. Two other council members who ran last year — Greer Stone and Pat Burt — are also subject to recent complaints to the FPPC, though the agency has not yet determined whether to launch investigations.

In all of these cases, the 2020 candidates are accused of failing to disclose certain contributions or file campaign forms by mandated deadlines, though in all of these cases the contributions were ultimately disclosed well before the election.

Kou, for example, filed her "intention statement" on April 26, 2020, but didn't file a formal form to establish a campaign committee until June 4, by which time she had collected about $11,800 in donations, according to the complaint.

The complaint against Stone alleges that he has been running a campaign without filing either an intention statement or a campaign statement. Records from the city show, however, that the city received Stone's form to establish a committee on June 18 and he filed his intention statement on Aug. 7, 2020, according to his campaign filings.

Burt is accused of being late in filing three disclosure reports that include donations of more than $1,000, requiring disclosures within 24 hours. The complaint pertains to a $1,000 contribution he received from Jeanne Fleming on Oct. 5 and to a pair of $1,900 contributions that his campaign received from Helyn MacLean and Asher Waldfogel on Oct. 26. Burt disclosed the Fleming contribution on Oct. 7, outside the 24-hour window, and he disclosed the contributions from MacLean and Waldfogel on Oct. 29, the forms show.

Comments

Not Good Enough
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2021 at 10:13 am
Not Good Enough, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 10:13 am

Kelsey, Kelsey, Kelsey,
Perhaps too much covid time on your hands led you to carpet-bomb FPPC complaints on a slew of city council members? All whom you dicker with politically - that's hardly mere coincidence.

You are also Regional Executive Director of Peninsula YIMBY Action, so more likely the motivation is political axe grinding. Otherwise you would have filed on other election candidates less objectionable to you who are vulnerable to FPPC complaints. Not cool, Kelsey.





Carol Scott
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Feb 18, 2021 at 10:52 am
Carol Scott, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 10:52 am

Amazing how quickly the FPPC can move when it wants to. Took 4 years to complete investigation of Liz Kniss.


Heinrich Gerhardt
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 18, 2021 at 10:56 am
Heinrich Gerhardt, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 10:56 am

A $201.00 fine (times 2) is a drop in the bucket and no big deal to pay.

Politically motivated dirt? Perhaps but then again, the PACC members must adhere to certain governing rules as well.

If each of Mr. DuBois supporters were to chip in a quarter (25¢), this fine would be paid off in a heartbeat.

No worries either way and no big deal one way or the other.

Now it's time for the PACC to get down to doing some real work rather than simply posturing themselves.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 18, 2021 at 10:57 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 10:57 am

Also coming here to correct Ms. Barnes' political affiliation, too, re YIMBY since it's so critical to get it right and understand who's pulling what strings.

It's also critical to look at YIMBY's lobbying efforts to control the "Democratic Party's" endorsement of its issues and candidates like Ms. Barnes' partner -- a former PA council member whose claim to fame was "civility" -- since the local "Democratic Party" only seems to listen to the YIMBY faction.

I'm a Democrat and was never asked for MY input.


Novelera
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 18, 2021 at 1:41 pm
Novelera, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 1:41 pm

Wow, YIMBY couldn't win at the polls so now they are taking pot shots at City Council candidates who DID win. Tom DuBois clearly explained in this article how he didn't complete the filings. The fines are trivial and so is the person/group having filed them.


Douglas Moran
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 18, 2021 at 3:18 pm
Douglas Moran, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 3:18 pm

Corrections to the Weekly's article:
I am responding for the Kou campaign because I worked on these items.

> "Kou ... didn't file a formal form to establish a campaign committee until June 4"

False: This form was filed with the CA Secretary of State on March 11 and the Kou Campaign received acknowledgment that it had been processed and accepted on April 1. The June 4 date is when that form from the SoS was entered into the online database used by the City Clerk.

> "The commission's Enforcement Division has also received a complaint against council member Lydia Kou ... and has opened an investigation into whether she committed any violations."

False. The Kou Campaign was notified of the complaint on February 9 stating that "we [the Commission] have not made any determination about the allegation(s)". A response has been filed. The Campaign has not been notified of any decision by the Commission about whether "the allegations of the complaint do not warrant the Commission's further action."

Part of the complaint not mentioned in the article was that the use of the acronym such as "PAUSD" to identify a contributor's employer "deprived the public of timely information regarding campaign contributions". We have updated the reporting forms to eliminate these picayune complaints.


Pete Danger
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 18, 2021 at 4:48 pm
Pete Danger, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 4:48 pm

Don’t know how Tom deals with all the crap. I couldn’t


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 18, 2021 at 7:22 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 18, 2021 at 7:22 pm

"We have updated the reporting forms to eliminate these picayune complaints."

That's one way to describe these 2-figure and 3-figure contributions.

Now let's look at YIMBY contributions from big tech which run into the 6 figures and 7 figures according to Wikipedia Web Link when it reported on just a few of the donations to the CA YIMBY party which -- based on its individual dues of $100 and its published number of 80,000 members totals $8,000,000.

"From 2018 to 2020, the lobbying group California YIMBY joined over 100 Bay Area technology industry executives in supporting state senator Scott Wiener's Senate Bills 827 and 50. The bills failed in the state senate after multiple attempts at passage.[58]:1[59]:1[60] California YIMBY received $100,000 from Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, $1 million from Irish entrepreneurs John and Patrick Collison through their company, Stripe, and $500,000 raised by Pantheon CEO Zach Rosen and GitHub CEO Nat Friedman.[61][62]"

Some in College Terrace remember Yelp Ceo Stoppelman's promise to replace JJ&F with a grocery AND its corporate headquarters until Yelp generated such bad press for underpaying its employees and then engaging in retaliatory firings that it took its money and left Palo Alto and for the East Bay. It also left the costs of dealing with the site it left behind.

But sure, let's focus on those picayune complaints about piddling contributions while claiming YIMBY really really cares about affordability and worker equity.


community member
Registered user
University South
on Feb 21, 2021 at 6:11 pm
community member, University South
Registered user
on Feb 21, 2021 at 6:11 pm

Ms Banes has disgraced herself by filing complaints against well-respected council members for trivial, inconsequential mistakes.
I wonder whether she similarly objected when Liz Kniss was accused of collecting and failing to report $19,340 in contributions. (From developers).
Banes' inexperience is a frequent source of embarrassment.


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