LANCASTER – Former Lancaster Council Member Sandra Johnson agreed to a $1,500 fine for failing to comply with state campaign reporting requirements in her 2012 City Council re-election campaign, the Fair Political Practices Commission announced Monday.
According to the stipulated agreement proposed by the FPPC’s Enforcement Division, Johnson violated the Political Reform Act by failing to disclose occupation and employer information on campaign statements for 20 individual contributors.
A Franchise Tax Board audit of “Sandra Johnson for City Council 2012” (for the period of January 2011 to June 2012) found that the 20 contributors to Johnson’s campaign accounted for $14,600 in donations, representing approximately 28 percent of the total contributions received.
“This is a significant amount of the total contributions received,” the FPPC’s Enforcement Division stated in the agreement, claiming the omissions represent “part of a pattern of non-disclosure; as occupation and employer information was not provided for individual contributors on three successive campaign statements.”
However, the FPPC said Johnson’s committee “by in large, complied with the Act’s campaign reporting requirements,” revealing through the audit that her campaign had received contributions of approximately $52,301, while making expenditures of approximately $27,747.
The Enforcement Division also noted in the agreement with Johnson that no evidence suggests a deliberate concealment of contributor information or an intent to deceive the public, rather “just a misunderstanding of the law by a group with little prior experience with the Act.”
FPPC officials outlined the severity of campaign reporting requirements, explaining that candidates are required to itemize contributions totaling $100 or more on each semi-annual and pre-election campaign statement, disclosing a contributor’s full name, street address, occupation, employer’s name, and the date and amount of each contribution.
“The Enforcement Division works diligently to investigate a wide range of abuses in order to expose violations of the law,” FPPC Chief of Enforcement Galena West stated in an email to The AV Times. “Whether it’s laundered campaign contributions or candidates trying to get around contribution limits, these illegal activities deprive voters of vital information and we will hold the violators responsible.”
Jaycob T. Bytel, the FPPC’s External Affairs Coordinator, told The AV Times that the commission will not vote to finalize the stipulated agreement until its next meeting on Aug. 20. “Until then, the stipulation is proposed language and not finalized,” he said.
Kimberly Underwood, an accounting specialist at University of Antelope Valley, was also named in the agreement for her role as treasurer in Johnson’s campaign.
The stipulation agreement resolves “all factual and legal issues raised in this matter,” while also reaching a final disposition to determine the liability of the respondents, the FPPC stated.