Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/09/2012 05:42:03 PM PDT
A bill inspired by the need to dilute the influence of big money in San Bernardino County is awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.
The bill authored by Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucaipa, would provide a more independent watchdog – the California Fair Political Practices Commission – to enforce San Bernardino County’s new campaign finance ordinance.
The ordinance proposes contribution limits that mirror those applied to state Senate and Assembly candidates.
The bill passed through the Legislature on Friday.
Candidates for San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and other county offices are not subject to contribution limits, and, according to Cook, abide by fewer rules than supervisors in other counties.
“The county came to us with the history of some of the things that have gone on in San Bernardino,” Cook said.
“It’s kind of like a common sense approach in which you have an outsider arbiter or somebody more objective, more involved in making these decisions in regards to ethics.
“Bottom line, it’s actually going to be cheaper. And the interesting thing with the bill is more counties have come to us and said this seems like a pretty good approach. It’s not a partisan Democrat or Republican thing.”
For more than a decade, San Bernardino County has had a number of circumstances where public and elected officials have been found guilty of misconduct, such as bribery and campaign finance violations.
The bill is a “clearer approach of process and procedure and makes it clear as to what candidates or elected officials ought not to be doing,” Supervisor Josie Gonzales said.
She said the bill would also lead to cost savings.
“Unless ethical commissions are given teeth or subpoena powers, or some type of regulated mandated adherences to any ruling, they are totally useless,” Gonzales said. “They become another layer of government that is costing millions of dollars.”
If approved by the governor, it would be the first agreement of its kind in the state. The FPPC does not enforce the ordinances of any other county, said Gary Winuk, chief of enforcement for the FPPC.
We’re going to have an agreement in place and a workload assessment, and through the budget process, we’ll find out if we need additional people,” said Winuk.
He said he’s not aware of any other county expressing desire for a similar arrangement.
“A lot of big cities have ethics commissions that are already established,” said Winuk. “I’m not sure I’m anticipating a huge number of requests. In fact, we’ve had none to date, but we’re open to discussing it in the future.”
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