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By Brian Hews
The Fair Political Practices Commission slammed Tina Baca Del Rio this past week with a record $104,000 fine as a result of a 2013 Hews Media Group-Community News exclusive expose involving her campaign finance statement reporting.
The violations by Baca Del Rio included failure to timely file and properly disclose financial activity on her campaign statements, and failure to disclose 22 late contributions of $1,000 or more in 14 separate cases.
But the violations that could catch the attention of District Attorney Jackie Lacey involve Baca Del Rio’s personal use of campaign funds.
HMG CN spoke to several law experts who indicated that the DA could hit Baca Del Rio with felony embezzlement charges.
During 2011, Baca Del Rio reported that she made a $6,000 loan to the committee.
The FPPC “repeatedly asked for evidence to substantiate the loan but none was provided.”
During that time, Baca Del Rio “re-paid” herself by transferring over $8,000 from the committee into her personal bank account through a series of 14 transfers.
Further, the committee paid for two charges at Lowe’s for $418 and $960 that was not disclosed on her committee statements.
According to a FPPC interview, Baca Del Rio indicated she was “remodeling her kitchen and her husband accidentally used the committee bank card for the expenditures at Lowe’s.”
Baca Del Rio tried to backtrack telling the FPPC that she later “deposited $1,500 in cash into the committee,” but, according to the FPPC, “the source of the cash could not be confirmed nor was any evidence found to substantiate the repayment.”
All tolled, Baca Del Rio personally used and never repaid $9,500 out of her various campaign finance committee accounts, which the DA could possibly prosecute as embezzlement.
In their decision, the FPPC blasted Baca Del Rio saying, “while Baca Del Rio claims to have made loans to the committee and repaid the expenditure made to Lowe’s, she has provided no evidence to substantiate any repayment. Personal use of campaign funds violates the trust of the contributors giving to that campaign and is a serious violation of the Political Reform Act. Baca Del Rio had ample opportunity to provide any documentation to show she made any repayments or loans to the committee, which she has not provided and no checks or other documentation supporting the idea that a loan occurred has been uncovered through our detailed investigation.”
Baca Del Rio was hit with four counts of failing to file campaign disclosure statement and fined $20,000.
She was also hit with 14 violations of failing to file late contribution reports and fined $56,000, and three counts of failure to file annual fees and slammed with an $8,000 fine.
Finally she was hit with 4 counts of “personal use probation” and fined $20,000
for a record total of $104,000 for a local elected official.
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