By Brian Hews
Hews Media Group-Community News has obtained a campaign email, sent by Central Basin Municipal Water Director Leticia Vasquez, that illegally used Commerce’s city email network to solicit donations and endorsements for her 2016 campaign.
Vasquez’ email was sent to every Commerce city employee over a network that is solely intended for internal city matters and emergencies.
The email could lead to felony charges against Vasquez by the Los Angeles District Attorney for misuse of public/government resources to solicit endorsements and contributions.
Additional charges could be filed for soliciting and intimidating government employees during regular business hours.
The email also violated several sections of California’s Can-Spam Act that regulate email distribution.
In addition to the absence of an opt-out selection or a physical address, the email did not have clear and concise subject line.
The Act dictates that the subject line of an email must be “clear and concise and related to the contents of the email.”
The subject line of the Vasquez email was “Hi! Its Leticia from Central Basin,” a questionable subject line that seemed intent on deceiving the recipient into thinking it was a personal email.
Finally, Vasquez blatantly used public resources to solicit and ultimately influence the outcome of an election, violating the Hatch Act, which could lead to federal government charges.
Vasquez’ email stated, “when I embarked on my journey as Director for the Central Basin 4 years ago, I never knew how critical it was to have a stable, honest voice at the table fighting for a clean, affordable and reliable water supply.
The email went on, “as a result I have decided to seek reelection November 8. We have achieved so much these past four years and yet there’s still much more work that needs to be done.”
The next sentence stated, “I humbly ask for your support and endorsement.”
Below that sentence was an html button ‘Yes I endorse Leticia Vasquez.’
Clicking on the button redirected the recipient to Vasquez’ campaign website to fill out an endorsement form.
Another sentence stated, “if you like to support by giving a small donation that would also be greatly appreciated.”
Below that was a Donate button that redirected the recipient to Vasquez’ campaign website similar to the endorsement button.
The letter was signed Leticia Vasquez; below that was “Paid for by Vasquez 4 Water Board 2016 ID 1346862.”
Two councilmembers, alarmed that the email entered the City’s system and solicited donations, forwarded the email to Commerce City Administrator Jorge Rifa and Jesse Guerrero, the city’s IT Director.
Rifa subsequently asked Guerrero, “Can you identify the email address which this email came from (“Hi! Its Leticia” . . . ). This is a political announcement which is completely inappropriate for an “All Staff” message which as we all know is intended on our network solely for City matters internal to our operations (City business).”
“I need to put the sender on notice that this was inappropriate as well as eliminate the ability of the sending address to use “All Staff”.
Rifa was told it was Vasquez and sent an email admonishing the director, “My name is Jorge Rifá. I am the City Administrator for the City of Commerce. Yesterday early afternoon the City received the following email from the email address identified below. The email went out to an internal “AllStaff” City email address which is used for City internal notifications to City employees.”
Rifa explained, “this is not an email address that is open to outside notifications such as the message received from your campaign address. I would appreciate your cooperation in receiving information from you as to how this email entered the City’s internal system. ”
Rifa went on, “In any event, this email is a political campaign message and inappropriate for sending to an internal City email address which reaches City employees on duty/off duty. I will appreciate it if you take steps to ensure that your political campaign messaging is no longer sent thru the City to connect with City employees.” “
“As we both are aware, public resources cannot be used for campaigning.”
HMG-CN reached out to Rifa asking if Vasquez sent the information he requested pertaining to his question of “how this email entered the City’s internal system.”
No response has been received from Rifa at time of publication.
HMG-CN also reached out to Vaquez, who also did not respond by the time of publication.
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