Flap Develops Over Apple Valley Chamber’s Slighting Of Council Candidates

(September 28)  A complaint to the  State Fair Political Practices Commission is being drafted which will detail accusations that the Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce has favored one set of candidates by providing them with a forum to promote their town council candidacies while excluding others. The complaint alleges the chambers action ran afoul of the Political Reform Act in that the chamber is a recipient of town funds, and is thus prohibited from sponsoring a political forum that favors any candidates over others.
The chamber’s executive director, Janice Moore, said no promotion of candidates took place and that all candidates who were in attendance at the September 19 convocation of chamber members were offered the opportunity to address those assembled and  introduce themselves and their campaign platforms. Moore insisted that the chamber was not receiving town subsidization, as had been alleged.
The chamber, which routinely holds a gathering of its members on the third Wednesday of every month, met on September 19. That meeting featured a presentation by Burrtec, the city’s franchised trash hauler, relating to its service and arrangement with the town to enforce recycling by the imposition of liens against homeowners who fall into arrears on their trash service bills. During the gathering, Moore invited all political candidates present, including those for Congress, the board of supervisors, town council and the school board to introduce themselves and expound on their current political effort.
While former Apple Valley fire chief Art Bishop and Apple Valley Fire District board member and Apple Valley planning commissioner  Larry Cusack made a pitch to their fellow chamber members, council hopefuls, Iver Bye, Jackie Moore (no relation to Janice  Moore), Christina Burton, David Phillips, Tom Piper and Robert Seifert were not in attendance.
Bye, Burton and Jackie Moore told the Sentinel they had been snubbed by the chamber, having not been invited to participate and having not been informed that the opportunity to address the chamber membership about their respective candidacies was being provided.
The chamber receives money from the town of Apple Valley. In February, the town council approved a business retention services agreement with the chamber for a six-month term at a cost of $18,820. This week, on Tuesday September 25, six days after the chamber’s September meeting,  the town council approved an extension of the agreement with the chamber for the nine-and-a-half month remainder of fiscal year 2012-13 in the amount of $29,400.
The chamber’s financial ties to the city prohibit it from engaging in any type of selective candidate promotion, several of the challenging town council candidates and their supporters maintain. At press time, they were preparing a complaint to the FPPC, citing state law, the chamber’s receipt of town taxpayer money and last week’s forum.
Chamber executive director Janice Moore said the complaint was based on a misreading of the facts, state law, the chamber’s policy and routine and the circumstance.
“The chamber of commerce is a membership-driven organization for business people and people in Apple Valley interested in developments in  local business circles,” Janice Moore said. “Every third Wednesday of the month we have a speaker of relevance to the business community. Last week we had a presentation on the town’s mandatory recycling program. After the speech I asked if those running for office wanted to speak. We had a congressional candidate, one for the board of supervisors, two running for town council and two running for school board. I told them I thought it was courageous of them to be stepping up to run for office and wanted to give them the opportunity to introduce themselves. Those that were there came forward.”
Janice Moore said that there was no favoritism shown to anyone and no one was purposefully excluded. “Everyone who was there was allowed to speak. If they (Bye, Jackie Moore and Burton) had attended I would not have said, ‘You can’t stand up, too. We are pretty inclusive, but I’m not going to chase them down. If you are a member of an organization and you are running for office, I do not think that it is odd that your fellow members want to hear about your election effort. I am sorry if people feel they missed out. It is too bad they felt slighted.”
Turning the matter around, Janice Moore said that those who were not at the meeting to take advantage of the forum it offered were to blame. “They say they want to be on the town council but are not interested in joining the chamber?” she intoned. “If they are not interested in the chamber, then they are not interested in the local business climate. It only costs $250 per year to join. I do not have leverage on people. You have to be present to play. I sent out over 500 emails. I announced this at the town council meeting. They are not members of the chamber and they don’t subscribe to our newsletter. Even if you are not a member of the chamber of commerce, you can still come to the meetings to see our culture, to see what we are like. They had the chance to be there. I have heard of Iver Bye. I don’t know either of those other people [Jackie Moore and Burton]. I do not know why they would choose not to be a member of the chamber.  I don’t have an understanding of why someone who wants to lead the city would not want to be a member of the chamber. It sounds to me like someone doesn’t know how to organize a campaign.”
As to those who suggested that the chamber is bound by the Political Reform Act and Fair Political Practices regulations because the town is subsidizing the chamber, Janice Moore said those people are “misinformed. We have a contract with the town for services. Read it and tell me if that reads like a subsidy.”
The chamber contract with the town calls for the chamber to host a recognition event for top sales tax producers and long-standing businesses; develop a shop local program; create a business start up guide; develop a YuccaLomaBridge.com website for promotion and information of local services; survey and promote home-based businesses; and continue the ongoing radio media and marketing campaign. In the previous six months, the chamber had conducted grand opening celebrations; served as a member of the Local Preference Ad-Hoc Committee; conducted computer skills training workshops; conducted a job preparation and job skills training workshop, facilitated a social media campaign for Apple Valley Village, served as a marketing consultant to Apple Valley Village PBID Association; and attended the International Council of Shopping Centers tradeshow.
“I am a professional person,” Janice Moore said. “This sounds like there is jealousy in people who do not want to be a member. I and the chamber do work under contract for the town. I am contracted to provide specific things, specific services. My skills and services and my knowledge are valuable. The town happens to be one of my clients. They seek my service. I write contracts for services. I am pretty doggone talented to provide these services. Not everyone can do that.  Look at the contract.”
Janice Moore said the chamber provides to the public on its premises electioneering material prepared by current office candidates who are chamber members and does not feature electioneering material by candidates who are not chamber members. She said that policy is not out of compliance with the law or FPPC regulations.
Bye told the Sentinel, “I was not invited to the chamber’s function. I received no notice that it was going to take place.”
Jackie Moore said, “I heard there were several candidates at the luncheon, all invited. I was not invited. They were given time to promote their elections. But it was only the chosen few. This was for the powers that be. The little people were not invited. The town pays the chamber $29,000. I think the FPPC will have something to say about that.”
Burton told the Sentinel, “I heard that the chamber CEO mentioned that she had invited everybody and that all the candidates were expected to be there. Those that were there were allowed to speak and campaign. I was not invited. At least four of us were not invited. I think the chamber is in collusion with the good old guys, [incumbent councilmen]Curt Emick and Scott Nassiff and their supporters and hand-picked candidates all together. That is what I think.”

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