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Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/25/2009 03:14:31 PM PST

SAN BERNARDINO – City Attorney James F. Penman said Wednesday that he has agreed to pay a $5,000 settlement to the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission over a free membership he accepted at Arrowhead Country Club.

“I didn’t think I violated the law, but the FPPC feels differently … I have to respect their decisions,” Penman said, emphasizing that his settlement is not an admission of any criminal wrongdoing.

Penman said the commission staffers concluded that he did not report the full value of his honorary club membership in 2005 and 2006.

FPPC spokesman Roman Porter confirmed that an agreement was reached, but said he was not able to discuss details of the investigation.

The FPPC’s board is scheduled to decide on whether to accept the settlement Dec. 10. The agenda for that meeting is scheduled to be released Monday, Porter said.

The settlement stems from a complaint filed in Oct. 2007, when Penman was seeking re-election for City Attorney. The complaint named several other local officials including former mayor Judith Valles and former police chief Garrett Zimmon.

Valles could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Zimmon initially said he had no comment, adding that “I didn’t participate in anything at Arrowhead Country Club.”

Penman said it would be cheaper to settle the case instead of fighting the agency in an administrative law court. He said that his 2007 re-election campaign, plus two attempts to become mayor and his wife Judi Penman’s school board campaign have drained his personal finances.

The city attorney provided copies of correspondence between himself and Arrowhead Country Club management related to his honorary membership. In the earliest letter, the club wrote Penman on March 16, 1995 to extend an honorary membership.

Penman replied on March 21, 1995 that he could not accept the membership because state law restricts local officials from accepting gifts from a single-source valued at more than $280 per year.

The club replied on April 22, 1995 that the membership would limit Penman to six rounds of golf per year, which the club valued at $180.

An additional letter from the club dated May 5, 1995 states Penman’s honorary membership would not even have that value, since Penman would not golf.

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