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Four complaints have been filed through the California Fair Political Practices Commission against candidates running for City Council. Members of the “Change” slate — Oscar de la Torre, Phil Brock, Christine Parra, and Mario Fonda-Bonardi — were accused of receiving unreported free advertising from the Santa Monica Mirror. Complaints have also been filed against Ana Maria Jara, Terry O’Day, and Phil Brock as an individual for either failing to report their economic interests or doing so late.

On Oct. 4, local lawyer Joel Koury filed a complaint against the “Change” slate candidates alleging that they receive free advertising equivalent to thousands of dollars in undisclosed campaign contributions through articles in the Santa Monica Mirror that consistently endorse these candidates while disparaging their fellow contenders. The FPPC has yet to pass judgement on this complaint.

“Every article for the month of September has included the names of an endorsement for Mr. Brock, Mr. Fonda-Bonardi, Mr. de la Torre, and Ms. Parra as candidates for the November election. Mr. Brock also writes a column called Brock on Your Block which appears weekly in the Santa Monica Mirror,” said Koury in his complaint. “If a candidate wanted to purchase a similarly placed article, the Santa Monica Mirror charges $750 per ad. This is direct advocacy in excess of $340 which is the Santa Monica enacted limit for each candidate.”

Slate members de la Torre and Brock deny the legitimacy of the complaint, labeling it a smear tactic and in conflict with the Mirror’s First Amendment rights.

“The FPPC’s regulations specifically provide that a newspaper may publish commentary without that commentary being considered a contribution to a candidate. The editorial pages of newspapers across the country are filled with both editorial and opinion content about all levels of political candidates,” said Brock. “The freedom of the press is one of the core guarantees of our First Amendment. Mr. Koury’s interpretation of the law would prevent a local newspaper from publishing commentary or endorsement of local candidates in the critical time before a local election. As the FPPC’s regulations make clear, there is no basis for the press to restrict its publication in that manner.”

“The purpose of this complaint is to distract voters from the real corruption and mismanagement that the current SM City Council is responsible for. The SM Daily Press has reported on the conflicts of interest of Gleam Davis and violations of the anti-corruption Oaks Initiative by Terry O’day,” said de la Torre. “These smear tactics can’t hide the fact the current City Council majority is destroying our City. They are targeting our slate because they want to stay in power but as residents we intend to fight to bring needed change to Santa Monica!”

On Oct. 5, a different FPPC complaint was filed against Phil Brock by Jason Islas, who accused Brock of failing to disclose any financial interests in his candidate Form 700 Statement of Economic Interest and in the six Form 700s Brock filed while serving as Arts Commissioner.

According to the FPPC, the complaint is a duplicate and has been rejected but the original complaint remains under investigation.

“Phil has for years failed to disclose his sources of income or any assets all the while seeking public office and this resident has had enough of his hypocrisy. For someone who has asked time and again for the public trust, his willful obfuscation is unconscionable. He has continuously attacked his opponents with aggressive — and baseless — accusations of dishonesty and corruption, meanwhile he has been actively hiding from the public the sources of his own income and wealth,” said Islas.

“Contrary to Mr. Islas’s allegations, I have no conflicts to hide from the public. When I filed my Form 700 as a candidate for City Council, I was not aware that City Council candidates must provide additional information that I was not required to disclose as a City Commissioner, and simply submitted the same information that I provided earlier in the year as an Arts Commissioner,” said Brock. “Now that I have been informed of the extent of my disclosure obligation, I am filing an amended Form 700 to disclose this information, as there is nothing about my sources of income or other financial interests that I have any reason to hide.”

In August Mary Marlow filed a complaint against City Council incumbents Ana Maria Jara and Terry O’Day for failing to submit their Form 700 elected official statement disclosing their financial interests, which was due on June 1. O’Day submitted his form on Sept. 4, while Jara has yet to submit hers, however they both submitted Form 700 candidate statements by the Aug. 7 deadline. According the FPPC website, Marlow’s complaint is still open.

“Yes, I erred in June with my filling – but I have since rectified the situation and am current,” said Jara.

Clara@smdp.com