By Paresh Dave
pdave@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, May. 24, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

A giant gorilla clawing at the Capitol amid a gust of floating $100 bills was one of the leading images on the Fair Political Practices Commission website on new chairwoman Ann Ravel’s first day on the job.

Not anymore. The image, created when Ross Johnson was chairman in 2008, is gone from the website.

“For a government agency with this kind of important power and authority, that approach is really unprofessional and really inappropriate,” Ravel said Monday.

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Ravel to the post in February, about 36 years after he selected the political watchdog agency’s first leader.

In an interview with The Bee Capitol Bureau, Ravel said the commission has become “a morass of regulations,” many of which don’t fit 21st-century political interactions. She also said the commission’s approach has strayed to “vilification of potential violators” instead of ensuring due process.

Since replacing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointee Dan Schnur as chair, Ravel said she has aimed to create a more fair process for those accused of violating the law and to emphasize prosecution of the most serious offenders.

“We should spend less time on the small violations where people maybe just didn’t know what they were doing,” she said.

Ravel said she wants the agency’s staff to more aggressively seek out wrongdoing, and is assembling a team to search for willful and serious violations such as money laundering – even if no one has filed a specific complaint.

Bob Stern, who was the FPPC’s first general counsel, commended the plan to target egregious violators.

“It will send a message that the commission is very serious about pursuing big cases, and that’s not a bad message to send,” he said.

Ravel also hopes an internal group can identify duplicative and contrary regulations to amend. In January, the commission adopted several updated rules proposed by a task force that Schnur created.

“The fact that (Ravel) wants to continue that work is good news,” he said.

Some ideas from last year’s task force required new legislation, but the Assembly bill carrying those changes is parked in committee until the authors can prove it won’t affect the cash-strapped general fund.

One of Schnur’s policies that Ravel reversed was posting online a list of open investigations. Ravel said she was concerned the list implied that the FPPC saw some merit to the complaint.

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