Santa Rosa has fined two political groups backed by public safety unions $1,000 each for mailers that violated the city's campaign finance laws.
The violations were sparked when Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre saw a mailer criticizing Councilman Gary Wysocky and council candidate Julie Combs for wanting to "continue the infighting."
Vas Dupre said she quickly noticed the mailer didn't properly explain who was funding it, as required by city law.
"I said 'I think we need to know who's behind this,' " Vas Dupre said.
The mailer was paid for by an independent expenditure committee called the Committee for a Civil City Hall, and included the notation that it was "sponsored by business people and public safety employees."
But the mailer didn't list the group's top three contributors, contact person, or other disclosures as required by city law.
According to filings, the committee has received $13,300 to date from three groups: $7,000 from the Santa Rosa Police Officers Association, the union representing the city's 140 police officers; $5,000 from the political action committee of the Sonoma County Alliance, a coalition of local business interests; and $1,300 from the Sonoma Police Management Association, a union representing department brass.
Campaign finance filings indicate the committee spent about $11,000 on the mailer.
Vas Dupre said she was concerned that police officers were involved in "attacking" a sitting City Council member and another candidate who have called for greater financial sacrifices from police to help resolve the city's budget woes and pension debt.
"They tout civility and flout legality," Vas Dupre said. "It really upsets me."
Alan Schellerup, president of the Santa Rosa Police Officers Association, took responsibility for the error.
"All I can say is we made the mistake, we're going to pay the fine and move on," Schellerup said.
He said he spoke to several consultants about the mailer and the job was "rushed." He said the error was "an oversight" for which he took full responsibility.