FPPC About To Hit Adelanto Councilman With Massive Fine

The California Political Fair Practices Commission is proposing to assess against Adelanto City Councilman Daniel Ramos one of the largest fines that official watchdog agency has ever imposed on any local official.
According to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), Ramos, who is currently Adelanto’s mayor pro tem, despite numerous notifications and posted requests that he do so, has not submitted campaign fund accounting paperwork for his unsuccessful 2018 campaign for the Victorville City Council and he has since repeatedly failed to provide an accounting of his victorious 2020 campaign for the Adelanto City Council.
All told, it is estimated that Ramos collected and then spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $57,000 on both of those electoral efforts. An exact figure cannot be had because he has not filed the State Form 460 documents used to itemized donations to, expenditures from, loans to and from and nonmonetary contribution or in-kind payments relating to, his electioneering efforts. The FPPC is now proposing that Ramos and/or his campaign be assessed a $57,500 fine as a result.
At its May 16, 2024 meeting, the California Political Fair Practices Commission issued a pre-notice default against Ramos, his Ramos for City Council 2018 committee, the Committee to Elect Daniel Ramos Adelanto City Council 2020, Ricardo Ramos and Arley Arsineda.
The commission, after considering input from Alex Rose, the FPPC’s senior counsel, and Ann Flaherty, the commission’s special investigator, it voted to proceed in the action against Ramos, his committees, Ricardo Ramos, and Arsineda.
According to Rose and Flaherty, “Ramos for City Council 2018 and Committee to Elect Daniel Ramos Adelanto City Council 2020 are Daniel Ramos’ candidate-controlled committees. Arsineda served as the Adelanto Committee’s treasurer. The committees, Daniel Ramos, and Arsineda failed to timely file a statement of organization, sixteen semi-annual campaign statements, and four pre-election campaign statements, in violation of Government Code Sections 84103, 84200, 84200.5. (13 counts). Additionally, the Adelanto Committee, Daniel Ramos, and Arsineda failed to establish, maintain, and utilize a campaign bank account, in violation of Government Code Section 85201 (1 count). Total Proposed Penalty: $57,500.”
It was not clear what role Ricardo Ramos played in the case, although unverified information has it he was involved in the 2018 effort to get Ramos elected in Victorville.
The seriousness of the violation and Ramos’s refusal, after more than five-and-a-half years, to provide an accounting of where he received his campaign funding and how he spent it is indicated by the amount of the proposed fine.
The largest fine ever imposed by the California Fair Political Practices Commission was one of $350,000 on State Senator Carole Migden. Migden, who held a state office, engaged in numerous violations of not only campaign accounting regulations but misused and misappropriated political funds, converted campaign funds to personal profit, used campaign money for personal expenses, failed to itemize political expenses, received contributions before officially declaring her candidacy, made inaccurate disclosures of cash payments and improperly reported campaign finances.
In researching the 3,349 outstanding fines levied by the FPPC which that agency is yet seeking to collect, the Sentinel could not find any fine levied on a local politician exceeding $5,000. The $57,500 fine proposed against Ramos is more than any single fine the Fair Political Practices Commission is yet seeking to collect, the vast majority of which fall under $1,000. With very few exceptions, the larger fines imposed by the FPPC are on political action committees, recipient committees, independent expenditure committees, lobbyists and major donors. Many of the largest outstanding fines go back several years.
The largest fine outstanding is one for $46,720 imposed on a recipient committee which the FPPC has been trying to collect since 2016. There was another fine for $29,290 which has been outstanding since 2016. A major donor was fined $21,020 in 2014 and has not yet paid that assessment. A fine of $20,520 was imposed on a recipient committee, which has ducked payment since 2016. A major donor was fined $19,670 in 2015 and is still in arrears to the FPPC. An outstanding fine of $13,730 is yet owed by another recipient committee. An $11,500 fine levied on a recipient committee has remained unrequited since 2017.  A candidate owes the FPPC $10,650. A $10,000 fine has yet to be paid by a major donor/independent expenditure committee. Another candidate has yet to pay a $9,750 assessment imposed in 2021. Recipient committees are behind in satisfying a $9,650 fine imposed in 2018, another fine for $9,090 and a third for $9,050, which has been owed since 2015.
This week, the Sentinel emailed Ramos asking him to provide a statement with regard to the California Fair Political Practices Commission’s recent indication of its proposed action regarding his 2018 and 2020 campaign fund activities and accounting deficiencies. The Sentinel sought from Ramos whether he considered the mistakes to have been inadvertent and what steps he has instituted to prevent a recurrence. The Sentinel asked if he considered the areas highlighted by the FPPC with regard to his campaign funds to be minor violations and/or mere technical violations. The Sentinel asked if there was a deliberate element in his campaign reporting shortcomings, clarifying the question by asking if he had concern about the public perception or the potential for public misperception if some of the donors to his campaign were disclosed and whether there were any donors he could now identify about whom or which he in particular had such concerns.
The Sentinel sought from Ramos an assurance that his failure to disclose the identities of those who had backed him politically and who are yet backing him does not represent a compromising of the quality of governmental leadership Adelanto’s residents should be able to rely upon at City Hall. For good measure, the Sentinel asked Ramos if there is anything more about this circumstance that he considered worthy of the Sentinel’s readership’s attention or consideration.
Ramos did not respond to the email.
-Mark Gutglueck

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