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By Brian Hews
Last week, Hews Media Group-Community News obtained a campaign email, sent by Central Basin Municipal Water Director Leticia Vasquez, that unlawfully used Commerce’s City email system 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.
City Administrator Jorge Rifa, who did not know who sent the email until his IT Director investigated the source, admonished Vasquez saying, “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 campaign purposes.”
Vasquez’ email started, “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 the sentence 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. ”
The email clearly violated California Government Code Section 8314 that states, “It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer….. to (1) use (2) public resources for a (3) campaign activity.”
(1) “Use” means a use of public resources that results in a gain to the user (Vasquez) or a loss to the state or any local agency for which a monetary value may be estimated.
In Vazquez’ case she sent the email and received exposure for her campaign as well as some donations.
Commerce Councilmembers, Management, Administrators, and employees all spent some amount of paid government time engaging with the email of which a monetary value can be estimated.
(2) “Public resources” is defined as any property or asset owned by the state or any local agency.
In Vasquez’ case, she used the Commerce City email system to solicit donations and endorsements from City employees.
(3) “Campaign activity” means an activity constituting a contribution as defined in Section 82015 which states in part, “a payment…. by a third party…. unless it is clear that it is not made for political purposes.
In Vasquez’ case, she solicited and likely received donations, which is a clear “campaign activity.”
Section 8314 states that any person who violates this section is liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000 dollars for each day on which a violation occurs, plus three times the value of the unlawful use of public resources.
This is not the first time Vasquez has flaunted political campaign laws to enrich her campaign coffers only to be fined later.
In November 2015, HMG-CN exclusively reported that Vasquez was fined by the Fair Political Practices Commission for improper campaign reporting practices related to fundraisers she failed to report in 2012.
The first fundraiser, organized by Pacifica Services’ CEO Ernie Camacho and his brother Andy Camacho, was at the El Paseo restaurant in Los Angeles.
The event raised over $15,000 with Camacho and a subsidiary company of Pacifica, MLJ Properties, which is owned by Camacho’s children, giving Vasquez an additional $5,000.
Vasquez failed to report the lucrative fundraiser on her 460-campaign disclosure documents, a FPPC violation.
The other fundraiser was held at the La Huasteca restaurant in Lynwood on Dec. 6, 2012. Vasquez’ point person, who was responsible for paying the food bill, failed to show up at the event.
A flustered Vasquez pleaded with former Pico Rivera Mayor Ron Beilke, who was at the event to help a friend, to pay for the food, which Beilke did, in cash.
Vasquez once again failed to report the fundraiser on her 460-campaign disclosure documents, another FPPC violation.
During her 2012 election campaign, Vasquez hired convicted felon Ric Mayer and convicted felon who plead down to a misdemeanor Angle Gonzales, owner of Pyramid Printing.
Vasquez and board ally, James Roybal, who is not seeking re-election, ended up owing the pair over $50,000 years after they were both elected.
Vasquez did not respond to requests for comment.
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