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County supervisor agrees to $14K penalty for Political Reform Act violations

Gioia's settlement marks latest campaign-finance probe for an elected county official

The state Fair Political Practices Commission and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia have agreed to a $14,000 administrative penalty for violations of the Political Reform Act, according to a stipulated agreement filed by the commission's enforcement division.

Committees connected to Gioia's 2010 and 2014 election campaigns failed to meet deadlines for filing 16 documents tracking their contributions and expenditures between 2013 and 2016. One of the documents, a pre-election report from 2014, was filed in January 2016 -- roughly 22 months late.

"Even though I have fully disclosed all contributions and expenditures on my campaign forms, I'm embarrassed that I filed my forms late," Gioia, who represents West County on the Board of Supervisors, said Wednesday.

"I take full responsibility for that," he added. "Instead of being my own accountant and treasurer, I intend to hire a professional treasurer so this never happens again and I meet all filing deadlines."

Revelations of Gioia's case come months after an FPPC investigation into inappropriate campaign spending by then-Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson ultimately led to him resigning as DA and pleading no contest to perjury.

Gioia's campaign committees allegedly violated the Political Reform Act, racking up a total of six counts of failure to timely file semi-annual campaign statements, one count of failure to timely file pre-election campaign statements, and one count of failure to timely file 24-hour contribution reports, according to the stipulated agreement.

With eight counts and a maximum penalty of $5,000 per count, Gioia could have been looking at $40,000 in penalties.

The FPPC considers a number of factors to determine what they consider the appropriate penalty, including the seriousness of the violation, intention to conceal or deceive, whether the violation was deliberate or inadvertent, whether the violation was part of a pattern, whether corrections were voluntarily filed, and whether the campaign in question has a prior record of similar violations.

Gioia's campaign committees demonstrated a pattern of failure to timely file their semiannual campaign statements, according to the stipulation.

They were fined $1,500 for each of those six counts, as well as $3,000 for the single count of failure to timely file pre-election campaign statements and $2,000 for the single count of failure to timely file 24-hour contribution reports.

"This has been agreed to, this has been signed, we have the check," said Jay Wierenga, the commission's communications director.

But the stipulated agreement still has to be submitted for consideration at a meeting of the Fair Political Practices Commission, currently scheduled for 10 a.m. next Thursday in Sacramento.

"If the commission votes to accept this as presented, then the check goes to the state," Wierenga said.

Gioia has been a Contra Costa County supervisor since 1998, representing District 1 in the western part of the county, which includes Richmond, San Pablo, El Cerrito, part of Pinole and unincorporated communities such as El Sobrante, Kensington, North Richmond and Rollingwood.

The San Ramon Valley has two representatives on the Board of Supervisors: Candace Andersen whose District 2 includes San Ramon, Danville and Alamo, plus Lamorinda and parts of Walnut Creek, and Diane Burgis, whose District 3 includes Blackhawk, Diablo, Tassajara Valley and East County.

The five supervisors are in the process of selecting a candidate to serve as the county's interim DA through January 2019 in the wake of Peterson's resignation two months ago

Peterson, who took office in 2010 and won re-election in 2014, stepped down on June 14 after pleading no contest to one count of perjury as part of a plea deal with state prosecutors for spending $66,372 in campaign money on personal expenses.

He admitted to the FPPC that he misappropriated the funds, saying he considered the money to be loans that he was paying back. The money came from Peterson's political campaign coffers and it is a violation of state law to use it for anything other than campaign or political expenses.

— Bay City News Service

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