An addendum to the FPPC investigation into the Canyon City Alliance with bonus analysis

I reported in today’s newspaper about a Fair Political Practices Commission investigation into “potential issues” regarding campaign literature from the Canyon City Alliance.

The first thing I want to discuss is the assertion by Azusans Against Mining Expansion that the FPPC found violations the CCA was guilty of violating the Political Reform Act.

Is that claim true? To my best knowledge and understanding, that answer is: undetermined.

Let me explain.

The FPPC’s letter is highly ambiguous regarding any violation. In the second paragraph it states:

In our investigation of this allegation, we have identified several potential issues that may be violations of the Act

The key words in this sentence are “potential” and “may be.” If you are citing someone for a violation, you don’t leverage your claim by adding crutch words like potential and may be. That suggests there is room for error, interpretation or argument. I think that is what we have hear.

That is demonstrated by the claims of a violation over the 410 committee statement paperwork. That potential violation was already taken back by the FPPC after speaking with Vulcan, according to FPPC spokesman Roman Porter. A new letter was issued without that allegation and Porter said the CCA was previously in compliance regarding the 410, prior to the original FPPC letter being drafted. If this letter was citing steadfast violations, the FPPC wouldn’t have changed its tune on one of the “violations” in just a few days.

When I asked Porter what this letter meant, he declined to speak about an open investigation. The fact this is an open investigation directly implies that CCA has not be found in violation. If this was a done deal, Porter would speak freely about the investigation, the violations, and all the documents related to that would be posted on the FPPC website. Maybe they will in the next couple days, but right now, that just isn’t the case. It is very possible that by the end of the week, Vulcan is fined. It is possible this all will be taken back. The point I am making is that none of this is solidified yet.

For now, Porter said this was a “cease and desist” letter, but wouldn’t comment on any actual violations due to the open investigatation. Whether or not anything needs to be stopped or changed, is still a matter of debate. I think we will have our answer soon, but the fact is, we don’t have it yet.

QUICK UPDATE: I did go to the Canyon City Alliance website and found it curious that in the “Who We Are” section, it lists “Yes on A, Canyon City Alliance is a coalition including the Azusa Chamber of Commerce, the Azusa Police Officers’ Association, community leaders and local residents.”

Where’s Vulcan?

Item number two.

There has often been the argument that if the development agreement doesn’t nullify the entire conditional use permit for Vulcan’s mining plan amendment, why are they fighting to support the referendum election?

Jeri Vogel said just as much to me yesterday.

“If Yes on A gets rid of all the money they have to pay the city of Azusa, then why do they plan to fight that unless they plan on making a whole lot more money later on?” she said.

To her credit, I think it is an easy conclusion to assume. I wondered just the same myself when the referendum was first proposed. In fact, that same thing happened in Rosemead with its Wal-Mart referendum. When the people came forward to the City Council to ask them to take back the development agreement, Wal-Mart stepped forward and said sounds like an awesome idea. Guess what? The city lost the money and Wal-Mart kept its use permit.

So the question arises, why is Vulcan promoting Measure A?

For Vulcan this situation is a lose-lose. Fight for Measure A and you get accusations like Vogel’s (which aren’t without merit).

Yet, if they fought against Measure A, they would make themselves an easy target to be cast as the greedy mining company out to squeeze whatever they can out of the community, including tricking the people into giving them a mining plan without Vulcan giving anything back (except its regular tax rate) to the city.

I posed the question to Vogel.

“That is kind of a hard one. They are in a lose-lose position as far as that goes,” she agreed. ” I still think they are going to make a whole lot more money on the other side.”

For Vulcan, it was an easy choice, especially since they made a promise to the city they would defend against any referendum.

“The city can’t campaign in favor of it, but we can and we said we would,” Vulcan spokeswoman Peg Casey said. “The development agreement requires that if there was a challenge, that Vulcan would defend against that action. It is perfectly appropriate that we defend and support Measure A.”

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  • David

    Hi Daniel,
    Vulcan also promised to cover the costs of the election but they did not claiming that the clause “is part of the development agreement and so is not in enforcement until the Development Agreement passes.

    That would also ring true for this.

    Don’t you find it strange that Vulcan refuses to honor its agreement when it comes to paying for an election but honors the agreement when it comes to publishing their PR?

    In discovering Vulcan’s hypocrisy I think you have stumbled on to something of great interest to your readers.

    How about more follow up on that topic please?

  • David

    Also, Daniel,
    Regarding this statement:
    “The city can’t campaign in favor of it”

    The City cannot campaign in favor of it but Councilman Keith Hanks contradicted both City Staff and City Council at the last Azusa City Council meeting in order to make it sound like Measure A is the only way mining will stop in 2038.
    Since this is not true according to Vulcan, City Staff and the City Attorney wouldn’t that be campaigning during a board meeting?

    Your readers want to know.

  • Daniel Tedford

    Happy to respond, David.

    First, regarding Vulcan paying for the referendum, I have a question for you. If Vulcan had paid for the election and Measure A passed, what do you think the reaction would have been from opponents of the plan? Is it possible that many would question the validity of such an election, considering it was paid for by an interested party?

    I understand the immediate arguments around that regarding the city, the EIR, etc. But don’t you think it is possible the city wanted to avoid the controversy on this one?

    As for the 2038 issue. I have quizzed public officials on it previously. It is some council members belief that with the new plan, mining will cease on the property in 2038. Under the previous plan, they will argue, that the remaining land could been mined post 2038.

    Elected officials are allowed to weigh in on subjects. What is meant by the “city can’t campaign” is they can’t spend public dollars in an effort to campaign for a political election, such as what Duarte is currently accused of doing. Specifically, the city couldn’t buy/create fliers, mailers, banners, etc. that promote or advocate against Measure A, which is what the Canyon City Alliance – via Vulcan – is doing.

  • David

    Thanks Daniel,

    Interesting argument on why Vulcan did not pay for the election. I had not heard that one yet.
    I think the city wanting to avoid controversy is a moot point, it will happen anyway no matter who wins.

    Regarding the 2038 end date, I would like to have seen the Council member’s opinions on that followed up on. While Council member opinions are expected during a question and answer session the Council was in a session described as “distributing factual information”. It is one thing to repeat the City Staff’s analysis (true or not); it is another to spout a contradictory opinion at that time. Doing so as Keith Hanks did is definitely campaigning. It sounds like the City Council wants to have it both ways whenever it is convenient for them to do so.

    Also, isnt there still the contention that the wording that the City Council members considered in their opinions about the 1988 agreement exist verbatim in the 2010 agreement?

  • David

    Another update!

    Despite repeated claims by the CCA that they would change nothing they have now changed their web site to read: “Yes on A, Canyon City Alliance is a coalition including Vulcan Materials Company…”

    As Daniel pointed out this was NOT what their website read yesterday.

    I guess it is just another of the Vulcan terminology that they like to use in their campaign; “Vulcan won’t mine the East 80 acres” means “Vulcan WILL mine the East 80 Acres”, “Vulcan won’t mine past 2038” means “Vulcan WILL mine past 2038”, “Vulcan will pay for the election” means “Vulcan won’t pay the election costs (put will put money into their own PR)”, “Vulcan has done nothing wrong so it will NOT change their site” means “Vulcan lied to Azusa so it WILL change its site”.

  • Jeri V

    Mr. Tedford, a little more of what has transpired to cause the FPPC letter.

    At first, it was the 410 form being filled out incorrectly, but we had to wait until we actually had proof, and submit it. So, from mid July until Dec 6th, the CCA was in violation. It seems interesting they fixed their paperwork five days after I filed but, I can say without a doubt it isn’t coincidence. I was curious why someone kept asking me questions about when I was going to file, so I leaked the info to them Friday and BAZINGA on Monday the the CCA refiled.

    Second, the CCA hired some young people from the east coast to knock on doors and hand out pamphlets etc. The young man that knocked on my door gave me their pamphlets and I noticed that there was no “paid for by….” on them at all. So, we collected a few of those items, a picture of a banner without “paid for by….” on it, that had been used at several events, and as you noted, their website (which has been amended to add Vulcan Materials, as of yesterday). Those items are in violation, but, the CCA is given an opportunity to fix it by the FPPC, in case the information was “accidentally” left off by an oversight.

    Oh, and just an update on the Audit of our business. The City is refusing to give us the names of other business audited along with ours for “privacy” reasons. But, they did give me a bunch of dates they say the audited the businesses. j

  • Jeri V

    And so now, the hardest thing in the world for me to do, giving credit to a logical argument against what I believe, is in print. It’s taken me 50 long years of life, and a lot of self restraint, to be able to do that. ~sigh~ Thank you Daniel! ;}

  • Bruce

    Well, here it is January 1st 2011 and there are many signs and other campaign material throughout the city that are not in compliance. The signs either have Vulcan incorrectly listed in small white letters on a yellow background as apart of a coalition or not listed at all. CCA is Vulcan, not a separate entity. Vulcan should correctly be listed “sponsored by” “paid for by” or at the very least “major contributor”. When do we suppose this “oversight” will be corrected?