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.