CITY HALL — Following a local gadfly’s urging, California’s Fair Political Practices Commission has officially warned Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor she will be fined in the future if she fails to file campaign disclosure statements on time.
The written warning dated March 23 from the FPPC stated that O’Connor failed to file a semi-annual campaign statement for the second half of last year in a timely fashion.
“Failure to comply with the provisions of the [Political Reform Act] in the future will result in monetary penalties of up to $5,000 for each violation,” the letter, which was obtained by the Daily Press, stated.
O’Connor filed her most recent campaign disclosure forms more than six weeks after the Feb. 1 deadline. She was not fined for her tardiness by the City Clerk’s Office after she submitted a letter asking for leniency because she had recently undergone knee surgery.
The FPPC’s investigation occurred at the behest of Pro Se, a longtime Santa Monica City Council gadfly who notified the commission O’Connor had missed the filing deadline.
In an interview on Friday, he said he felt compelled to report O’Connor’s tardiness to the commission in part because he felt City Hall’s decision not to issue a fine revealed a “double standard.”
He said he ran for City Council in 2002 and was told that he would have to meet filing deadlines despite being confined to a wheel chair and experiencing “extreme pain.”
Denise Anderson-Warren, an administrative analyst in the City Clerk’s office, denied the department plays favorites.
“I’ve been here for 15 years and [City Clerk Maria Stewart has] treated everybody exactly the same,” she said. “She’s been fair and equitable with everybody the entire time I’ve been here.”
Pro Se said even though the FPPC opted not to fine O’Connor, his complaint would benefit Santa Monica’s political culture.
“The good thing out of this is it’ll give a warning to all elected officials in Santa Monica that there’s someone who will bring to the attention of the commission their lateness,” he said.
There are practical reasons for timely filing, he said, since “the sooner we know the source of their donations … the better informed we the people of Santa Monica will be.”
“As an elected official it should always be an honor and a privilege to serve we the people of Santa Monica.”
In an interview Friday, O’Connor downplayed the significance of the FPPC warning and her tardiness in filing her campaign forms.
“The FPPC said, ‘You’re late Pam.’ I know. [The forms were] in by the time they gave me the letter.”
She said it’s been a hectic period because on top of her knee surgery she’s had additional duties filling in as the de facto mayor at City Hall.
“I work for a living and I had some big projects,” she added. “There are maybe some people who are never [late], once in a while I’m late on a bill payment, I’m late on something like this.”
She said the fact she wasn’t assessed a fine doesn’t mean she received special treatment at City Hall.
“I think it all comes from recognizing that we’re citizen legislators. You’re not a full time candidate. You’re not a big time politician.”
O’Connor’s forms, filed March 17, showed she raised $6,675 during the period from July 1, 2009 to Dec. 31. After 16 years on the council, O’Connor plans to run for re-election in November.