State commission warns Sonoma County over violations

The Fair Political Practices Commission, in response to a citizen’s complaint, chastised the county for failing to file statements of economic interests for some employees.|

The state Fair Political Practices Commission has warned Sonoma County about violations of the Political Reform Act, noting that the county had failed to file statements of economic interests for some of its employees and public officials.

The FPPC declined to fine Sonoma County over the violations, citing a number of mitigating factors such as prompt self-reporting of the violations, a high degree of turnover among county staff since the commission last provided training in 2017-18 and no prior history of similar violations.

The state requires financial statements to help avoid conflicts of interest in local government. Required disclosures include things like stock holdings, business partnerships, income property and non-governmental salaries.

The April 19 letter from Angela J. Brereton, chief of the commission’s enforcement division, did not include names of employees or officials who hadn’t filed statements.

“The information in this matter will be retained and may be considered should an enforcement action become necessary based on newly discovered information or future conduct,” Brereton wrote to deputy county counsel Linda Schiltgen. “Failure to comply with the provisions of the Act in the future will result in monetary penalties of up to $5,000 for each violation.”

County officials were not immediately available for comment.

The letter was triggered by a complaint filed by Santa Rosa resident Adina Flores, a frequent critic of county policy.

“We’re fully aware of the issues that were bought up in the letter,” county spokesperson Paul Gullixson said. “And we have already taken steps to address them internally. We acknowledge we fell behind on this paperwork, due to the many challenges we’ve all encountered over the last few years — particularly COVID and transitioning to a virtual work environment.”

Gullixson said the county is still trying to address its administrative staffing needs. a gap that could be addressed by the Board of Supervisors as soon as this month.

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