PLACERVILLE - The state's political watchdog agency Tuesday found El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson guilty of violating campaign disclosure laws during his campaign for District Attorney in 2007.
In all, the Fair Political Practices Commission found Pierson, the candidate, and Pierson the campaign Treasurer, guilty of violating the "One Bank" rule of the Political Reform Act. Essentially Pierson had a 'hidden' bank account which he used to transfer campaign funds, one lacking the required public disclosures. He violated the Act by using more than one account in 2007 and again in 2010 when he avoided the campaign account and used personal funds for campaign purposes.
In part the letter reads:
"Specifically, the FPPC found that you violated the Act's campaign disclosure provisions with regard to loans made to your committee and that you also violated the Act's 'one bank account per campaign' requirement as evidenced when you reimbursed yourself for $4,100 for campaign expenses you paid with personal funds without first depositing that amount in your campaign account."
It goes on to read:
"Your actions violated the Act because you failed to disclose the continued balance on an outstanding loan that you made to your committee in the amount of $500 per the requirement of Section 85201 and the Form 460's Schedule B. The loan was initially reported on your campaign report (Form 460) covering the period from January 1, 2007 through June 30, 2007, and then disappearing from the subsequent reports until it was disclosed as paid in the report covering the period May 18, 2010, through may 22, 2010. You further violated the Act in expending $4,100 in campaign-related purchases, as described on your Form 460 covering the period July 1, 2010. through December 12, 2010, from personal funds without first depositing the personal funds into the campaign account."
The FPPC also found that this was Pierson's first violation and that there did not appear to be any intentional wrongdoing, and a s such, offered him resolution in the form of a Warning letter. The warning includes the statement, "Failure to comply with the Act in the future will result in monetary penalties of up to $5,000 for each violation."
Although the El Dorado County DA seems to have dodged a bullet, he has the option of challenging the FPPC findings within the 10-day window.
In this case, local political campaign manager Dan Dellinger said that any candidate that acts as their own campaign Treasurer is a foolish rookie. He noted that often innocent mistakes are made on these government forms and a candidate risking the political backlash because they filed the forms incorrectly makes no sense when a person who only focuses on filing the forms correctly is built into the system. A candidate acting as their own Treasurer is like a lawyer acting as their own lawyer, "Simply stupid."
Dellinger added this:
"four years ago DA Vern Pierson raised about $7,300 for his re-election effort, however, nobody ran against him and he had $4,100 left in his campaign account after paying expenses….so instead of returning prorated contributions (i.e. 56%) back to his donors, Pierson wrote himself three campaign checks totaling $4,100 (the remaining cash balance in his campaign account) to himself and called it expenses on his FPPC Form 460."
Frank Stephens recently brought this to the attention of the FPPC... Thank you for your courage Frank!!!
Dellinger is no fan of the DA and is currently being sued by the DA's office in what he claims is a politically motivated prosecution.
All year the accusation of a corrupt DA using his office for political purposes has been heralded by Supervisor Ray Nutting. Nutting is also being prosecuted by the DA's office. The irony is that part of what the DA is charging that Nutting did, by failing to make proper disclosures on the same government forms, is exactly what the FPPC has now accused the DA himself, of doing!
This is not the first time the DA Pierson's professional judgement has been brought into question.
Although the issue of Pierson's alleged use of his office for political purposes is high profile, the real question impugning his performance is the issue of personal judgement. The choice to act as his own Treasurer and then illegally co-mingle personal and campaign funds over the span of three years was one issue that just came to light, but for nearly six months, people have accused the DA of exercising extremely poor judgement when he signed on to act as a celebrity bartender.
Details of that story are found here, but essences of the story is the attendance by the DA as a bartender was followed by his friend and significant campaign contributor being arrested for DUI. It was now the DA's job to, not only "fairly" prosecute his friend and campaign funder, but also to see if the bartender had served him when he was already drunk. The problem is that his decision to act as the bartender made him the subject of the investigation that he was elected to prosecute.
These, and other actions lead to the DA getting a challenger for his office. Although the candidate has since dropped out and effectively endorsed Pierson, there are widly known rumors that the challenger was bullied out of the race with questionable tactics that deprived the voters of an elective choice.
In spite of the challenger to the DA dropping out, his name remains on the ballot and if he wins he will take office.
Without any campaign against a sitting DA, the outcome of the unchallenged race is not in doubt. To nearly all voters, Judson Henry is unknown, and the sidelined challenger will not be getting better known since he will not be campaigning.
As such, any votes for Judson Henry will now be seen as anti-Pierson votes.
How deep the dissatisfaction is with the DA is unknown, but come June 3th, the votes for DA will be counted and the votes will say what many people are afraid to say in public, whether or not they like the job the DA is doing in EDC.
Related story; El Dorado County DA Vern Pierson Accused of Grand Jury Abuse - See more at: http://inedc.com/1-5734