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Commerce Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca Del Rio Under Investigation by Fair Political Practices Commission, Could Face Up to $125,000 in Fines


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Commerce Mayor pro tem Tina Baca Del Rio.

By Brian Hews

Commerce Mayor pro tem Tina Baca Del Rio, who was fined $26,000 for campaign finance irregularities in 2011, is once again under investigation for similar offenses by the Fair Political Practices Commission, a Hews Media Group-Community News investigation has uncovered.

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In April 2011, Baca Del Rio and her campaign committee, Friends of Tina Baca Del Rio, was hit with the $26,000 fine from the FPPC, charged with seven counts of violating campaign finance laws that occurred between 2007 and 2009.

In their 2011 decision, the FPPC slammed Baca Del Rio saying, “Baca Del Rio received and ignored repeated notifications and reminders from the City Clerk of the City of Commerce concerning her obligations to file campaign statements covering a period of July 1, 2005 to February 14, 2009. [She] failed to file three semi-annual campaign statements and four pre-election campaign statements, even after multiple notifications from the City Clerk of the City of Commerce. This indicates a pattern of negligence.

The FPPC decision suggested Baca Del Rio withheld the information to win her Commerce Council seat, “this failure deprived the public of important information about Baca Del Rio’s contributors and financial activity in connection with Baca Del Rio’s defense of a recall in November 2008 and in connection with her reelection in March 2009.”

Baca Del Rio was recalled from the Commerce City Council in November 20, 2008, but was surprisingly re-elected in 2009.

Many residents cited the heavy financial support from Commerce based businesses Justman Packaging and Steve Craig, the owner of Citadel Outlets and Craig Realty Group, as reasons she won back the council seat.

They also tell HMG-CN that Craig helped Baca Del Rio pay the $26,000 fine by holding a fundraiser for her.

A complaint filed in 2013 initiated another FPPC investigation of Baca Del Rio’s campaign finance statements from 2011 through 2012.

The complaint made it evident that Baca Del Rio continued her blatant pattern of violating FPPC campaign finance laws immediately after she was slammed with the $26,000 fine in 2011.

And an examination of those statements by HMG-CN shows major campaign finance violations committed by Baca Del Rio; violations that will culminate in additional substantial monetary fines from the FPPC.

Campaign Filing Deadlines
According to FPPC rules, “semi-annual” campaign statements must be filed within one month after June 30 and Dec 31.

But Baca Del Rio filed her June 2010 statements 19 months after the deadline on Feb. 22, 2012 and the statements were shockingly blank.

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Baca Del Rio “amended” the June 2010 statements and filed the documents 10 months later, 29 months late in total, in Dec. 2012. The statements contained $2,500 in contributions, $926 in expenditures, and a $17,925 loan made by Baca Del Rio to herself.

 

 

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Following a pattern of non-compliance, Baca Del Rio filed her Dec. 2010 statements on Feb. 22, 2012, 13 months after the deadline. The statements, similar to her June 2010 statements, were once again blank.

 

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Baca Del Rio “amended” the Dec. 2010 statements and filed the documents 10 months later, 23 months late in total, in Dec. 2012. The statements contained $665 in expenditures, and the $17,925 loan made by Baca Del Rio to herself.

 

 

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The pattern continued in 2011, with Baca Del Rio filing June 2011 statements in Dec. 2012, 17 months after the FPPC deadline. The statement contained substantial contributions of $26,523, over $26,000 in expenditures, and a changed loan amount from $17,925 in the 2010 statements to $23,925 on the 2011 statements.

 

 

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Similar to 2010, Baca Del Rio filed her Dec. 2011 in Dec. 2012, 11 months after the deadline.

 

 

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Baca De Rio followed that by filing her June 2012 statements 5 months late.

 

 

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All tolled, the HMG-CN investigation found that Baca Del Rio amassed seven FPPC violations for failing to file semi-annual campaign statements on time. With each violation carrying a maximum fine of up to $5,000, she could pay up to $35,000 in fines.

Acting on the previous pattern of non-compliance displayed by Baca Del Rio, HMG-CN requested her 2013-2014 campaign statements and found similar irregularities that should trigger additional substantial monetary fines.

“Pre-Election Deadlines”

Baca Del Rio campaigned for and won her Commerce City Council seat in March 2013, again with heavy support from Commerce based Justman Packaging and Steve Craig, owner of the Citadel Outlets.

According to FPPC rules, “pre-election” campaign statements must be filed within 5 days of the end of the filing periods, which cover Jan. 1 to Jan. 19, Jan. 20 to Feb. 16, and Feb. 17 to Jun. 30.

In addition, the FPPC requires contributions of $1,000 or more to be reported within 24 hours using the “24-hour contribution report” Form 497. Effective Jan. 1, 2013 the filing period was extended from 16 days before an election to 90 days before an election.

Sixteen Form 497 Violations
Documents obtained by HMG-CN show that Baca Del Rio filed the Jan. 1 to Jan. 19 statements on time. The statement showed a $1,000 donation from Justman Packaging. According to the Commerce City Clerk, she did not file a Form 497 statement.

 

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The second pre-election statement obtained by HMG-CN due Feb. 21, 2013 was filed over three months late on May 29, 2013, with substantial campaign contributions totaling $16,398 and $5,162 in expenditures.

The statement included the contributor’s names and showed that 15 of those contributors gave Baca Del Rio’s committee $1,000 or more.

The 15 contributions would have required Baca Del Rio’s committee to file 10 separate 497 statements, yet none were filed.

 

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The third statement due July 31, 2013, was filed over 40 days late on Sept. 13, 2013, with campaign contributions totaling $7,800, and a staggering $19,185 in expenditures.

The statement included the contributor’s names and showed that 6 of those contributors gave Baca Del Rio’s committee $1,000 or more.

The 6 contributions would have required Baca Del Rio’s committee to file 5 separate 497 reports, yet none were filed.

 

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All tolled, the HMG-CN investigation found that Baca Del Rio amassed 25 FPPC violations.

With a history of FPPC violations in her past, and given the FPPC abhors repeat offenders, each violation could carry a possible fine of up to $5,000, meaning Baca Del Rio could be looking at a staggering $125,000 in FPPC fines.

When asked why the investigation is over 2 years old, FPPC Communications Director Jay Weirenga told HMG-CN, “as for length of investigations, I can say that most cases are resolved in a year or less. At last check, as of a month or two ago, we only had 12-13 cases open for more than 2 years, so the vast majority are done well before that. And, all I can say is each investigation is its own being, that is, obviously, it depends on the facts and information of each situation, the complexity, the cooperation and availability of those involved.”

Emails into Mayor pro tem Baca Del Rio went unreturned.

 

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JJ

Has anyone analyzed or made easily available all the campaign contributions for Commerce city council candidates recently?

Denise Robles
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Denise Robles

This is no surprise. However, I am relieved to hear that there is an ongoing investigation. I was losing hope in seeing justice prevail – but it doesn’t seem far now ! The public is entitled to know all the facts of what is taking place with their elected officials. Thank you Hews Media for your diligence in investigating and reporting all that is taking place in Commerce!