Dennis Sisneros (left). Sisneros was paid $5,000 to work on last year’s failed election to elect Councilman Rodriguez as mayor.
Some city hall watchers are claiming a recent filing with the state Fair Political Practices Commission is proof that Oceanside has become a “pay-to-play” city where wealthy developers can build what they want as long as they pad local political campaigns.
Two years ago Rancho Santa Fe developer Howard Jacobs successfully got his 34-unit Breeze Townhouse development passed after three years of controversy. Now Jacobs is building a five-story, 118-unit complex at the top of Pier View Way at Horne Street. Citizens complained at last year’s approval before the city council that the development had a box-like, sterile, institutional look.
Last year Jacobs gave $22,500 to five different Oceanside political campaigns including $7500 to the failed Jack Feller for Mayor campaign, $5000 to councilman Chris Rodriguez’s 2022 reelection effort, and $5000 to elect Ryan Keim to the city council.
Victor Roy (left) owes Oceanside $798 to cover its payment of the County Registrar of Voters.
But one Jacobs expenditure last year caused the city of Oceanside to file a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission. In January 2020 Jacobs wrote a $2500 check to a fund called “Oceanside Locals Recall of Esther Sanchez.” That recall effort never really got off the ground, but state law mandates that the group show how its donated seed money was spent.
Dennis Sisneros was listed as the principal officer and treasurer of “Oceanside Locals Recall of Esther Sanchez.” Sisneros is a Republican advocate and city council meeting regular. He was paid $5,000 to work on last year’s failed election to elect Councilman Rodriguez as mayor. Last year Sisneros ran for the Republican Central Committee representing the 76th Assembly district. He came in 14th out of 14 with 1.2 per cent of the votes cast. Sanchez is a Democrat and is often the lone city council member who questions large developments as they come before the city.
According to the Oceanside City Clerk’s office, neither Sisneros nor anyone else filed necessary reports to indicate how Jacobs’ $2500 donation to the Sanchez recall effort was spent. The FPPC website shows that the City of Oceanside filed a complaint over the Sanchez recall committee in December.
Sisneros said by phone on February 23 that he knew nothing about the FPPC complaint. “I have received no complaints from the city,” he said. “They have sent me nothing.”
“That’s not true,” says Oceanside city clerk Zeb Navarro who says that Sisneros has in fact “…been contacted 12 times either by phone or by mail and that’s all a matter of public record. All our communications with campaign committees is public record. He’s missed numerous filings that were date-certain. He’s missed four different filing periods.”
So does that mean that Sisneros just took Jacobs’ $2500 and ran? Better question might be what does Jacobs think about the unreported $2500?
“I’m not going to talk to you,” Jacobs said by phone when contacted February 23.
Meanwhile some Oceanside city hall insiders are abuzz over the unfolding Victor Roy affair. “People around here are saying he’s our city treasurer and he can’t pay his bills,” says one Oceanside city official who did not want to be named.
Roy was re-elected to a four-year term as Oceanside city treasurer in November. The part-time position is largely ceremonial. The treasurer makes no decisions on how the city structures its $170.8 million annual budget. The treasurer is allowed to provide input, but actually makes no decisions on how the city invests its $373 million portfolio. Those decisions are handled by Oceanside’s full-time treasury manager who works under the direction of the city’s finance director.
Still, Victor Roy’s city treasurer signature appears on all Oceanside city checks. He is one of nine people allowed to sit on the dais at all city council meetings.
Roy was sent an invoice by the city last week for $798. It followed four previous letters telling Roy that he needed to remit the city that amount.
The $798 amount is what Oceanside paid to the County Registrar covering Roy’s statement in the voter's guide. The Oceanside city clerk’s office collects the fees for all candidates for Oceanside elected positions. Each candidate for local office is given the opportunity to have their 200-word candidate statement appear in the voter information guide which is sent to all voters.
The clerk’s office advised each Oceanside candidate that if they wanted their statement to appear in the guide, they would need to pay an upfront fee of $1200, but that the amount may increase depending on how many candidates for that position end up buying a statement in the guide.
Because there were eight candidate statements for Oceanside mayor, for example, each mayoral candidate ended up paying an extra $121 in addition to the initial $1200. But because Roy was the only candidate for treasurer, he needed to pay an extra $798. All Oceanside candidates have paid the extra amount except for Roy according to the city clerk’s office. Roy’s unpaid $798 must now come out of the city’s general fund.
Interim county registrar Cynthia Paes says that her office conducts the election on behalf of all jurisdictions throughout the county. She says that after each election the cost per candidate is calculated and that each city or special district or must reimburse the county that amount.
“The cost of [outside] mailers is really quite expensive, so it turns out that buying a statement in the voter’s guide is a bargain,” says Paes. “But if you are the only candidate running in your race, you have to wonder why you would do it. You don’t have to have it.”
Oceanside city clerk Zeb Navarro says when the deadline passed and it became clear that incumbent Roy would be the only candidate running for Oceanside treasurer, he was given 24 hours to cancel his commitment for the voter’s guide statement and get his $1200 refunded.
“When a candidate pulls [campaign] papers they sign an agreement to pay the difference, if it is greater than their $1200 deposit,” says Navarro. “He has not responded to any requests we have sent him. The first one we sent him was in November.” If still unpaid in one week, the city assigns Roy’s $798 debt to collections and that could lead to wage attachment from his $26,581 city treasurer salary.
Questions to Roy about why he is not paying the $798 and why he even took out the statement when he was the only candidate were not returned.