FPPC Postpones Levying Near-Record Election Fund Reporting Fine On Adelanto Councilman Ramos

Less than a month after the California Political Fair Practices Commission put in place what it represented as final preparations to impose on Adelanto City Councilman Daniel Ramos one of the largest penalty assessments ever made against a local officeholder, the councilman has apparently begun negotiations with the state’s official political watchdog agency over how to cure the reporting violations he has amassed over the last six years.
According to the May 16, 2024 agenda for 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, had not submitted campaign fund accounting paperwork for his unsuccessful 2018 campaign for the Victorville City Council and he had further 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 is not available 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.
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 default notice called for the levying of a $57,500 fine on Ramos and/or his various campaign operations.
The commission, after considering input from Alex Rose, the FPPC’s senior counsel, and Ann Flaherty, the commission’s special investigator, 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. Other yet uncollected fines were for $29,290; $21,020; $20,520; $19,670; $13,730; $10,650; $10,000; $9,750; $9,650; $9,090; and $9,050.
In the agenda posted late last week for yesterday’s meeting of the five-member commission was an item pertaining to the approval of the $57,500 fine to be assessed against Ramos and his campaign entities pursuant to a default judgment. This week, on Tuesday June 11, the item was removed from the agenda.
FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga, who was traveling this week and was not present in Sacramento, told the Sentinel he was not privy to why the vote relating to Ramos and his campaign funds had been postponed.
Wieringa said removing an item from the FPPC board’s agenda is a relatively rare occurrence but that “issues scheduled resolution have been pulled when there are potential developments that could impact the case.”
That the May vote relating to default judgment signified that “there was already a finding of violation of the political reform act that had been organized and presented as a stipulated case. That there was a default signifies that somewhere along the line, he [Ramos] failed to participate in the inquiry or ignored a settlement proposal. We routinely seek a settlement, which serves as a public acknowledgment and admission of the violation of the Political Reform Act. I can’t say why this was pulled. It may have to do with new evidence being brought forward or it could have been referred to another law enforcement agency or there might now be an ongoing effort toward a settlement. This extends back to 2018, so he has had a lengthy history of trying to avoid accounting for those campaign expenditures.”
That the case was not heard on Thursday does not mean the matter has been resolved, Wieringa said. The matter will again be addressed by the commission.
“I can’t put a timeframe on it, but whatever way this is going, it will eventually be on another agenda.”
The Sentinel last month emailed Ramos asking him to provide a statement with regard to the California Fair Political Practices Commission’s 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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