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Disclosure-shy developers draw hand-slap ethics fine

Three-day filing deadlines stretched three weeks by pro-tax housing campaign

From Yes on A website
From Yes on A website

As a torrent of cash from out-of-town developers gushed into the campaign coffers of a San Diego ballot proposition ostensibly meant to boost low-cost housing with a property tax hike, proponents delayed disclosing to the city's ethics commission six $10,000-plus corporate donations until last November 2, the day before the vote.

So says a stipulation regarding the case, approved April 15 and posted online by the commission.

"In order to provide the public with readily accessible information concerning the sources of funding to committees formed to support and oppose City candidates and measures, [San Diego ethics law] requires such committees to include the text 'Funding details at www.sandiego.gov/donors' on or during its campaign advertisements,” the document says.

City law "also requires that, within three business days of receiving $10,000 (in the aggregate) or more from a single contributor, these committees send a notification email to the Ethics Commission with the name and identification number of the committee; the name of the contributor; and if applicable, the contributor's identification number."

"This information is then posted on the Ethics Commission's website so the public can access it via the website address provided on, or during... campaign advertisements," says the document. The agreement levied a mere $750 fine against a committee calling itself Yes on Measure A – Homes for San Diegans to atone for the disclosure violations.

According to the stipulation, the penalty was low in part because the Yes on A committee filed on-time disclosures required by state law with the city clerk's office. The Yes on A group also "fully cooperated with the Ethics Commission investigation," per the stipulation.

Requiring a two-thirds vote to raise property taxes through 2068, Measure A already faced a formidable fight for approval even before an October 1 Union-Tribune editorial condemned the proposal.

"Given that such housing costs on average more than $400,000 per unit — and that only a small percentage of the needy would actually get shelter if the measure passed — this is an extravagantly expensive and underwhelming approach to a problem that has much cheaper solutions," the paper opined.

Though opposed by many locals, a bevy of developers from across the country opened their pocketbooks for the cause, though word of their later contributions didn't make it to the ethics commission, and hence the general public, until the campaign was virtually over, the stipulation shows.

The six donations cited by the ethics commission document came from Century Housing Corporation of Los Angeles ($20,000, October 9), Raymond James and Associates, Inc. of St. Petersburg, Florida (October 15, $10,000), Wakeland Housing and Development Co, San Diego ($35,000, October 16), Boston Capital Corporate, Boston, Massachusetts ($25,000, October 19), Mercy Housing Inc., Denver, Colorado ($50,000, October 19), and Suffolk Construction Company, Inc., Boston ($15,000, October 20.)

San Diego ethics law dictates that contribution dates, sources, and amounts be communicated to the commission within three days, but the required disclosures of all six of the October donations cited were withheld until November 2.

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From Yes on A website
From Yes on A website

As a torrent of cash from out-of-town developers gushed into the campaign coffers of a San Diego ballot proposition ostensibly meant to boost low-cost housing with a property tax hike, proponents delayed disclosing to the city's ethics commission six $10,000-plus corporate donations until last November 2, the day before the vote.

So says a stipulation regarding the case, approved April 15 and posted online by the commission.

"In order to provide the public with readily accessible information concerning the sources of funding to committees formed to support and oppose City candidates and measures, [San Diego ethics law] requires such committees to include the text 'Funding details at www.sandiego.gov/donors' on or during its campaign advertisements,” the document says.

City law "also requires that, within three business days of receiving $10,000 (in the aggregate) or more from a single contributor, these committees send a notification email to the Ethics Commission with the name and identification number of the committee; the name of the contributor; and if applicable, the contributor's identification number."

"This information is then posted on the Ethics Commission's website so the public can access it via the website address provided on, or during... campaign advertisements," says the document. The agreement levied a mere $750 fine against a committee calling itself Yes on Measure A – Homes for San Diegans to atone for the disclosure violations.

According to the stipulation, the penalty was low in part because the Yes on A committee filed on-time disclosures required by state law with the city clerk's office. The Yes on A group also "fully cooperated with the Ethics Commission investigation," per the stipulation.

Requiring a two-thirds vote to raise property taxes through 2068, Measure A already faced a formidable fight for approval even before an October 1 Union-Tribune editorial condemned the proposal.

"Given that such housing costs on average more than $400,000 per unit — and that only a small percentage of the needy would actually get shelter if the measure passed — this is an extravagantly expensive and underwhelming approach to a problem that has much cheaper solutions," the paper opined.

Though opposed by many locals, a bevy of developers from across the country opened their pocketbooks for the cause, though word of their later contributions didn't make it to the ethics commission, and hence the general public, until the campaign was virtually over, the stipulation shows.

The six donations cited by the ethics commission document came from Century Housing Corporation of Los Angeles ($20,000, October 9), Raymond James and Associates, Inc. of St. Petersburg, Florida (October 15, $10,000), Wakeland Housing and Development Co, San Diego ($35,000, October 16), Boston Capital Corporate, Boston, Massachusetts ($25,000, October 19), Mercy Housing Inc., Denver, Colorado ($50,000, October 19), and Suffolk Construction Company, Inc., Boston ($15,000, October 20.)

San Diego ethics law dictates that contribution dates, sources, and amounts be communicated to the commission within three days, but the required disclosures of all six of the October donations cited were withheld until November 2.

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3

"The agreement levied a mere $750 fine against a committee calling itself Yes on Measure A – Homes for San Diegans to atone for the disclosure violations."

So for hiding donations of $155,000, this committee only had to pay a penalty of 0.0048%, because it "fully cooperated with the...investigation"?

Seems exorbitant considering the $200 (0.00067%) that Todd Gloria paid to be allowed to fradulently launder over $300,000. [https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2...]

Still, how amazing! Who knew justice could be afforded with less than the equivalent of coins from the spare change tray at a convenience store?

April 19, 2021
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
April 19, 2021

With little publicity surrounding this action, few SD voters will know that their votes are being influenced by out-of-town interests. Those interests have little concern about the issues, because they hope to profit from the sort of thing that would be built with the funds generated. SD voters would be well advised to vote to reject any and all such tax boosts. Too often they raise funds for wasteful projects that actually harm the locals, rather than helping them. And nobody should ever forget that SD can waste money with the best of 'em, all the while crying poor mouth.

April 20, 2021

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