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Campaign Committee for La Mirada Councilman Sarega Concealed Donations, Fined by FPPC 

 

 

Andrew Sarega

December 10, 2021

By Brian Hews

In July 2017, a  Hews Media Group-Community News investigation found Residents for a Better La Mirada, a campaign committee that affected the 2017 La Mirada City Council election, was funded by Stelian Onufrie.

Onufrie,  a friend of current La Mirada City Councilman Andrew Sarega, whose Congressional campaign Sarega later managed, poured $6,500 into RBLM, big bucks for a City Council campaign.

Just weeks later, documents show the money was used to slam District 1 candidate John Lewis and District 2 candidate and incumbent Pauline Deal using extremely unflattering direct mailed pieces.

Lewis won his election, beating Tony Aiello, who is another friend of Sarega’s, but Deal lost to Sarega.

RBLM’s address was 12800 Oakwood Lane in La Mirada, and its treasurer was Ionel Imbre. HMG-CN phone calls to Imbre met with “no comment.”

HMG-CN subsequently found that  Diamond Construction and Design donated the money to RBLM. Diamond listed its company address in La Habra. HMG-CN went out to the La Habra address and found the address was a P.O. Box in a UPS Store.

Investigating further, HMG-CN was able to locate the mailing address for Diamond. An internet search showed that the address was a single-family dwelling located in Buena Park and owned by Onufrie.

Diamond’s $6,500 donation was the only donation listed in the documents and was used to send the three mailers.

A complaint was filed and sent to the FPPC, triggering the investigation and fining RBLM and Onufrie a measly $458.

But no one knew why RBLM and Onufrie were fined, until now.

HMG-CN was sent an order by the FPPC confirming the reasons for the fine.

Under FPPC rules, any person or company making a $1,000 or more donation 90 days before the election must file a form within 24 hours of the donation.

The documents show that RBLM made two donations just two weeks prior to the election, one on February 17 and another on February 21, 2017; the first for $1,391, the second for $1,438.

Under the FPPC transparency rules, RBLM and Onufrie should have reported the donation within 24 hours.

But the filing date was March 3, 2017, just four days before the election.

During the election, HMG-CN was emailing La Mirada City Clerk Anne Haraskin nearly every day, checking for any 24-hour reports on large donations.

If RBLM had filed on time, this newspaper would have had an opportunity to publish an article and donations.

In the report, lead FPPC Counsel Ruth Wang issued her ruling and indicated Onifrie and RBLM “did nothing wrong:”

 

FFPC’s findings from the stipulation.

 

 

1). “RBLM filed all statements.”

Not until a complaint was filed and Onufrie was allowed to cure the violations.

2) “The extent and gravity of the public harm in the aggregate is not more than minimal.”

Sarega beat incumbent Pauline Deal, so harm is relative. The election also placed a Councilman on the Council who is constantly absent, Deal was at meetings 100% of the time.

3) “The FPPC found no evidence of intent to conceal.”

Onufrie opened the committee under an obscure name and address, hid the mailing address using a UPS P.O. Box in La Habra, and attempted to conceal his donations until he was caught cheating by HMG-CN.

Onufire also concealed his true Diamond Construction name and address but made a mistake when he listed his company as donating money, which HMG-CN eventually found and reported after an investigation.

Without that investigation, the finding, and the compliant, Onufrie would have succeeded in keeping the donations hidden.

No intent to conceal FPPC?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Response to Campaign Committee for La Mirada Councilman Sarega Concealed Donations, Fined by FPPC 

  1. Pingback: La Mirada Councilman Andrew Sarega Guilty and Fined for Campaign Violations | La Mirada Lamplighter