Franklin Gatlin IV has been in a little trouble lately. Last year, the 26-year-old allegedly smashed a beer bottle in the face of a fellow partygoer at his mother's Rancho Santa Fe house and ten days later stabbed a man at a Del Mar sushi restaurant. After getting sober, he was sentenced last week to a year in jail and five months of probation. Drug counts and battery charges were dropped under a deal with prosecutors.
If Gatlin's name sounds vaguely familiar, it's because his father, Franklin Gatlin III, was in the news back in September 1996, when he and his real estate development outfit, Gatlin Development, agreed to pay a $192,000 fine to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission for scheming to launder more than $28,000 in 108 individual campaign donations to members of the San Diego City Council and County Board of Supervisors during an 18-month period between 1992 and 1994. To that date, it was the fourth-largest fine ever levied by the commission.
"The violations were clearly part of an organized scheme to build influence with decision makers," said Ravi Mehta, then-chairman of the commission. "When taken into account, the enormous number of laundered campaign contributions together with the repeated nature of the violations over a year and a half shows a deliberate pattern of laundering activity."
Gatlin's law firm, Gresham, Varner, of San Bernardino, participated in the conspiracy by having its employees and their relatives make the contributions, which were later reimbursed; the firm paid $228,000 for its violations. In a written statement issued at the time, Gatlin claimed that "at no time did I act intentionally to deceive or violate the law. Nevertheless, on behalf of Gatlin Development Company, I accept full responsibility for my actions and want to extend my deepest apologies."
All of the politicians who received the tainted money, including county supervisor Ron Roberts, who voted in favor of Gatlin's projects, denied any knowledge of the laundering scheme.