Documents Reveal FPPC Allowed Elk Grove City Councilman Out of $93k Repayment Agreement

April 21, 2015 | A public records information request with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) unveiled their...


April 21, 2015 |

A public records information request with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) unveiled their unwillingness to pursue a settlement agreement they adjudicated against a sitting member of the Elk Grove City Council.  

The documents requested stemmed from an October 16 , 2014 stipulation agreement entered into by the FPPC and Elk Grove City Council Member Steve Detrick over his illegal use of $93,484 of campaign funds. The FPPC found that Detrick had illegally used his campaign funds to pay legal expenses incurred by son Brian Detrick, who was involved in defamation lawsuit against Elk Grove resident Connie Conley, who countered with an anti-SLAPP suit. The matter between Conley and Brian Detrick has been subsequently settled

At the time of the defamation lawsuit both Detrick's contended that Brian's lawsuit was directly related to political activities of Steve, and, therefore, the expenditure was appropriate. The payments to the Sacramento-based law firm of Boutin Jones were revealed in Steve Detrick's campaign finance disclosures filed with the Elk Grove City Clerk's office in 2013 and 2014.  

FPPC Rules Against Detrick

After taking on the case, an FPPC investigation concluded that Detrick had illegally used his campaign funds to pay for his son's legal expenses as outlined in California Codes 89512 and 89514.

The remedy, detailed in FPPC stipulation document 14-130, called for a $3,500 fine and on page three of the agreement stated:

"In acknowledgment of his mistake, Respondent [Detrick] personally reimbursed his Committee for all payments made by the Committee to Boutin Jones, Inc. related to Brian Detrick’s pending litigation. Respondent’s corrective action justifies a stipulated decision with a reduced number of counts from that which he would otherwise be held liable under the Act."

The proposed penalty noted "In consideration of the above factors including Respondent’s prior violation, consideration of penalties in prior enforcement actions, as well as Respondent’s reimbursement of the Committee funds, the imposition of a penalty of $3,500 for one count of violating the Act is recommended."

Detrick's 2014 campaign finance disclosure 

An examination of Detrick's California Form 460 filed for the second half of 2014 with the Elk Grove City Clerk's office on February 2, 2015 showed that for the entire year Detrick and his wife made four individual loans to the committee totaling $79,000. Under California law, individual loans to a campaign committee can be repaid. 

Although the Detrick's loaned his committee $79,000, there was no entry on that disclosure report showing that the $93,484 "Respondent personally reimbursed his Committee for all payments made by the Committee to Boutin Jones" had been made.  

October, 2014 FPPC Hearing

At the regular meeting of the FPPC on October 16, 2014, there was some disagreement on the proposed fine to be levied on Detrick. 

On one side urging a higher penalty was FPPC Commissioner Gavin Hachiya Wasserman, and urging the lower proposed penalty was then FPPC Chief Enforcement Officer Gary Winuk.   

"I felt that the fine should be higher for this personal use of campaign funds by a sitting council member with a prior violation," Wasserman said during the commissions deliberations. "I feel this kind of activity wants a higher penalty." 

Wasserman also noted Winuk's assertion that another misuse of campaign funds by Detrick was done in the same time frame, both were acknowledged mistakes by Detrick, and together they did not establish a pattern of abuse. 

After Winuk had explained the rationale for the lower penalty, FPPC Commission Chair Jodi Remke asked, "And he reimbursed the fund, that is correct?"

"That's correct, he is required to reimburse the funds," Winuk replied.

Even though Wasserman continued to argue that the magnitude of the misuse of the $93,000 warranted a higher penalty, he was overruled when the Commission voted 4-1 to accept Winuk's recommendation

(See the video of the proceeding here; discussion starts at the 7:33 point.)   

Public Information Request with FPPC

As a follow-up to Detrick's February 2 filing with the Elk Grove City Clerk, Elk Grove News contacted the FPPC regarding Detrick's supposed reimbursement to his campaign. 

The inquiry on February 4 said in part:

In the agreement between Detrick and the FPPC, it said, "Respondent personally reimbursed his Committee for all payments made by Committee to Boutin Jones, Inc. related to Brian Detrick's pending litigation." 

An examination of Detrick's last two Form 460's filed with the Elk Grove City's Clerk's office show that while he and his wife loaned the committee $79,000 in 2014, the same filings do not show any reimbursement as said was made in the stipulation agreement.

1. Does the loan from the Detrick's qualify as reimbursement? (My understanding was that a loan implies that the committee can be repaid; a reimbursement is replacement of funds to the committee that were incorrectly used.)

2. Does the FPPC have any documentation indicating that Detrick reimbursed his committee as noted in the stipulation agreement that is not listed on the Form 460?

3. If Detrick did not reimburse as stated, can further actions be taken by the FPPC?

Responding on behalf of the FPPC was its Communications Director, Jay Wierenga who replied as follows:

"There is no relation as we understand it between the $79,000 loan and the repayment to the committee for the funds expended for the attorney fees.

Detrick made a commitment to reimburse the committee as a part of the settlement.  He is actively working to fulfill that commitment.  He has been in contact with us to seek guidance on compliance and on the reimbursement issue.  He has been and is being cooperative, accepted responsibility and we are working with him on it."

In this exchange, Wierenga did not address if the FPPC had any documentation showing Detrick's promised reimbursement. 

On April 6, the following public information request was submitted by Elk Grove News to the FPPC:

I am requesting all the documentation (written, email, etc) between the FPPC and Elk Grove City Council Member Steven Detrick, or any representative on his behalf, regarding the arrangements that the council member is making with FPPC regarding repayment of the $92,000+ funds he agreed repay his campaign fund pursuant to his stipulation agreement with the FPPC. 

On April 16, the FPPC released three documents in regards to the request. The first two, dated March 16 and April 16, were addressed to Detrick and his attorney Steve Churchwell; an additional letter dated April 16 was addressed to Elk Grove News.

In the March 18 FPPC letter Executive Director from Erin Peth (see below) to Churchwell and Detrick, the FPPC noted Detrick had not made any reimbursement entries in his semi-annual financial disclosure filed February 2, 2015. Noting his "contention in the stipulation that you [Detrick] had made the reimbursement," The FPPC asked for any evidence documenting he had repaid his committee.  

Although any correspondence from Detrick or any of his representatives on the matter was included in the April 6 public information request, none was supplied. It is unclear if any exists.

In the April 16  FPPC letter from Acting Enforcement Chief Galena West (see below) to Churchwell and Detrick, even though they acknowledged Detrick had promised to repay his committee and failed to do so, the FPPC said it would not pursue any further action and considered it a closed matter. 

The letter states "It was a mistake by Mr. Detrick and the enforcement division to sign the stipulations with this statement in the exhibit that Mr. Detrick had reimbursed his committee when he had not. Because of this error, and the fact that the law does not require reimbursement, the Enforcement Division will not pursue reimbursement from Mr. Detrick and will close this matter."  

In another FPPC letter dated April 16 (see below) to Elk Grove News, the FPPC again acknowledged that Detrick did not reimburse his committee and offered an explanation of sorts. The letter said "Mr. Detrick did not reimburse his committee and it was a mistake to not have received documentation relating to the exhibits and stipulation. We have taken steps to strengthen the procedure."    

Winuk - Detrick 'needs to reimburse his committee' 

The FPPC's Chief Enforcement Officer at the time of Detrick's proceedings was Gary Winuk. Elk Grove residents may remember Winuk as one of the city's first Planning Commissioners having served from 2000-2004. 

Winuk left the agency this last February after serving for six years. During that time, he gained a reputation as a tenacious enforcer of the 1974 Political Reform Act, which led to the founding of the FPPC.

"If you take campaign funds and use them for personal use, then that is a violation of the act," Winuk told EGN. "He needs to reimburse his committee. They are choosing not to pursue it, but the law allows them to compel him to reimburse if they so choose."

While Winuk said Detrick should be required to reimburse his campaign committee, he added the law allows the FPPC to drop pursuit if they so choose. During his last month at the agency, Winuk said he had at least two conversations with Churchwell and the enforcement unit was still working with Detrick to develop a payment plan to reimburse his committee.  

"I'm not sure what changed in eight weeks," [since his departure from the FPPC] Winuk said.

"The letter [April 16 to Churchwell and Detrick] says that the law does not require reimbursement of the money; That is technically true," he said. "But it doesn't mean that he can't be compelled to reimburse it."

"The stipulation says he repaid it, I'm not sure why if he didn't repay it, that means he doesn't have to," Winuk said. "That doesn't make a lot of sense." 

As for other legal remedies, Winuk said a private citizen could pursue legal action for Detrick's reimbursement by either suing the FPPC or by filing a complaint with the local district attorney's office. If a complaint is filed with the district attorney, they have 120 days to respond. 

When asked if the FPPC's April 16 letter that said "a mistake by Mr. Detrick and the enforcement division to sign the stipulations" led to the decision not to pursue the reimbursement, Winuk said the letter was materially accurate.   

However Winuk noted, "I will add that one; the last public statement made by the agency was that we were working with him to get payment from him, and two; the FPPC can make him legally, compel him to reimburse, if they so choose."  

As for the FPPC's decision not to pursue the reimbursement, Winuk added "That decision was made, apparently after I left."

Copyright © 2015 by Elk Grove News. All rights reserved.



March 18, 2015 letter from FPPC to Churchwell and Detrick. Click to enlarge.

April 16 letter from FPPC to Churchwell and Detrick. Click to enlarge.

April 16, 2016 letter from FPPC to Elk Grove News.

  









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37 comments

Warren Buffett said...

The "fix" may be in, but more importantly going forward (for him at least), the developers who bankroll councilmembers in this town may very well find him to be too toxic to support any longer and cutoff their funds and support come next election (I call that pulling a Sophia).

Laguna Pete said...

Detrick has proven time after time that he is not trustworthy and that he lacks any thread of ethical fiber. He needs to either step down (not sure his ego will allow for that) or he needs to be recalled.

He has become a burden to our city and his actions/non-actions continue regularly to give our fair city a black eye.

Mr. Detrick has violated every promise he made during his initial election campaign. He's proven that he's not honest and he's not ethical. Now it seems he's refusing to repay the $93,000 he wrongfully appropriated to pay his son's legal bills; this after agreeeing to do so as part of a settlement agreement.

He needs to step down. Some people just weren't made to lead in such a public forum. Detrick certainly is one of them. I applaud his willingness to step forward at a time where we needed some new blood on the council. He may have tried to do his best, but the results have been horrendous.

But with all the lawsuits, formal complaints it's apparent that its time for a change. It's what's best for our city. Councilman Detrick, please step down.

Anonymous said...

Very true WB and the Citizens can and will decide for themselves whether Detrick's actions meet the standards they expect of their elected officials. There always comes a day of reckoning when you lose the peoples respect and trust.

DA Perhaps said...

The FPPC needs hold Detrick accountable and if, as Winuk stated, the DA needs to get involved, then so be it.

It wouldn't be the first time an Elk Grove City Councilman was prosecuted by the DA's office.

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

It is not surprising that Mr. Detrick tried to evade paying back his committee. That is to be expected by any politician in that situation. What is more troubling is the FPPC's willingness to let Mr. Detrick out of the commitment he made in the settlement agreement.

Memory Like an Elephant said...

"If you don't think I'm doing a good job, then vote me out"

-Councilman Detrick, 2014-

Lynn said...

All that has gone....I once had a friend tell me that when individuals are elected to local offices the power can become intoxicating....this is unfortunate. Intoxicated individuals do not make good decisions. Sad...truly sad....

When Councilmember Detrick first ran for office I convinced a friend who is a member of the Democratic Party that Mr. Detrick would bring positive change to our city..better land use plans...support the common people....that he was a humble man with integrity. She put up a yard sign....only Republican sign ever.

It is all sad and I had to admit to my friend I had been wrong and she was right.......

And what is going on with our city leadership is way beyond this.....

Corrupt as Bell, Bankrupt as Vallejo.
I can't prove it, but I think it....

Anonymous said...

Councilmember Detrick should do what he said he would do...pay back the money. The money was an illegal act; he said he would repay it; there is no grey here..just black and white. If the DA needs to be involved, then so be it. Sad that our city continues to elect folks with a low moral compass. Mr. Detrick is no better than Mr. Leary was. Only difference, Detrick has a nice smile. Our reputation in the region is very much suffering. I talked to a friend in Folsom who made fun of EG politics saying we are so juvenile when dealing with other jurisdictions, that those jurisdictions chose not to engage with us....we are becoming the region's laughing stock in part because of morally corrupt people like Councilman Detrick. I suspect he was hoping no one would notice his failure to repay the debt. Apparently he isn't that smart either.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I too agree with all the above and am very disappointed with what he has become. I no longer trust that dazzling smile he flashes, just another phony politician. Mr. Detrick, do the honest and right thing and show us you are the man we thought you were when we walked the streets with and for you in the beginning. If you can't be that man, then voluntarily step aside and let someone who can.

TJ Sutton said...

I wonder what else councilman Detrich hasn't been honest about. Hmmm? I remember a article here where he said those "ladies" were wrong. I'm sorry I believed him. Looks like I was wrong and those "ladies" were right about Detrich. Sure would like to hear what they have to say about it all.

viewfromhear said...

It is very rare that an elected official simply steps aside. Detrick is clear, if you want to replace him, don't vote for him.

An ongoing problem in local politics however is that we (the royal "we") vote based on name recognition. How many registered voters are there in EG now, upwards of 90,000, or so? We are lucky if half of them come out to the polls.

Can District 3 offer up an honest, humble yet decisive individual who can outshine Detrick? Or, is Detrick so encrusted in victory that no one will oppose him and the only option to get rid of him is a promotion (thinking of Cooper)?

Anonymous said...

Anon. 8:22....we can only hope so and if word on the street is true, I think we may have that person next election.

Mark "Deep Throat" Felt said...

I am thinking there is a cover up at the FPPC. Didn't the FPPC issue an official statement that Detrick "accepted full responsibility and we are working with him on it."

Question is: If true, how far up does the cover up go and who made the final call to let Detrick out of the $93K?

Andrew Weller said...

How disappointing Mr. Detrick has been. I recall meeting him when he was campaigning to replace the sitting incumbent, a sheriff's deputy, I believe. He spoke about all the bad things this councilman had done and how he wanted to bring credibility and honor back to the position. I voted for him based on those promises and his down to earth demeanor.

Since then, I've watched him morph into what the deputy he replaced on the council likely was. I don't know if it's the "power" as someone stated above that has gone to his head or he's being manipulated and is unaware of how the public perceives his actions.

He must feel guilty for not repaying the money he promised he would repay, any man with a conscience would. He can still do the right thing and repay that money. My hope for him
and all of us as his constituents is that he does what he agreed to and repay that money. It's not too late for him to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

And then there is this possibility that the FPPC recognizes their initial decision was flawed... But, please, don't let that possibility get in the way of the stories you want to tell yourselves.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 13:44:

The FPPC only charged one count because the stipulation stated the $93K was repaid. If that doesn't occur, the FPPC should go back and charge every count possible including as it stated all fines and penalties "allowed by the Act."

And what about the issue of giving false testimony before a governmental agency? Should there be consequences?

Anonymous said...

@13:44

Flawed how?

And, why not issue a correction?

That makes no sense to me. The FPPC would not let an erroneous decision remain the decision of record.

Try again.

Warren Buffett said...

There's so much grease on that squeaky wheel, it looks like the BP Gulf oil spill over at FPPC headquarters!

Anonymous said...

Steven Churchwell is a former FPPC Counsel and certainly would know the laws here. What part he did play, along with his client, in all of this? Was he a party to his client telling the FPPC he repaid the campaign account which included that written pat on the back FPPC statement, “Respondent’s corrective action justifies a stipulated decision with a reduced number of counts?”

Wouldn't that be suborning perjury? Why would Churchwell risk his Bar card over this client?

Anonymous said...

The FPPC needs to go after this Respondent as they did Chris Hansen. Hansen is a big player in a very big pond and he was held accountable.

Gary Winuk wasn't intimidated and he played hard ball and filed a lawsuit against Hansen. Hansen immediately fessed up and paid a $50K fine along with issuing an apology.

It is interesting to note that Regional Builders Joshua Wood filed the Hansen FPPC complaint. I wonder if he condones Detrick’s actions.

https://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/joshua-wood-is-the-smiling/content?oid=11110472

Emeril said...

Maybe when he returns from his steak and lobster feasts...I mean Cap to Cap, an explanation might be in order?

Fool us once, fool us twice and it's time to go said...

The thing about the money is that it was donated to Detrick's campaign account. Yes, of course, a lot was developer money, but a lot of it was from us "little people." The money was donated to help elect him to the council seat he currently holds. I did not make my small contribution to his campaign account for him to fund a lawsuit started by his son. Duper Detrick needs to put the money back.F

Anonymous said...

I see two issues here: #1 the FPPC seems to have failed in upholding the law as it relates to Detrick...a comment about "how they will do better in the future" doesn't cut.
Second issue: Detrick lied to a governmental investigative branch investigating him...can anyone say "perjury?"
First..who does FPPC report to? Attorney General? If so, the AG needs to be contacted...IMO. Second, the city council MUST address this issue...it goes to the heart of integrity and honesty. Our quasi-city attorney needs to do his job.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 15:59...it would be my guess that EGN did ask for a response from Mr. Detrick before publishing the article. Guess he got no reply.

I am one of those little people who made a contribution to his campaign...pretty much tells me what he thinks of us hard working stiffs.

As to the Cap to Cap....he kept his Facebook page filled with comments about all the free gifts he got. Now that's a professional for you......one dumb cookie!

Anonymous said...

Aaah, it's no big deal. No one here in Elk Grove gives a rats arse how they spend our taxpayer dollars so why should we care how he spends his Developer Dollars. Just call us another HOBOKEN spinoff. Hopefully we'll be able to pick up the pieces and move on when he's gone. In the end they finally get so confident that their butt is covered, that they just bury themselves and are out-the-door! Mayor Davis...are you listening?

Brenda Willis said...

Seems to me the FPPC dropped the ball here and Detrick has lied on his statement that he has actually repaid the $93,000.

That lie should be an actional offense the FPPC should address with severe penalties. Perhaps they can revisit the original complaint and all of the allegations they dismissed with the understanding the money had been repaid.

Detrick has proven himself as an egomaniac you believes he is above the law and bullet-proof.

Perhaps the FPPC or DA can bring him back to reality.

This really is shameful. Don't know how he sleeps at night.

Anonymous said...

Is the FPPC washing their hands of this matter? Do they lack integrity or was Winek on the take? The attorney general seems to be the correct agency with which to file a complaint. I think a call to their office is in order. Detrick got a reduce penalty because he stated multiple times he was/is/going to/working on paying back the money. IF he doesn't pay it back, he has essentially lied to the FPPC...seems like they (FPPC) have another reason to open up this investigation. This is just shameful from start to finish.

Somebody's pants are on fire! said...

Anon 20:17,

The fact is Detrick lied to the FPPC. It is not that he was/is/going to.

He signed a stipulation saying that HE DID pay the money back. That's why the FPPC lowered the number of counts and the fine.

He said he already returned the money to his campaign account. He lied to the FPPC and, much more importantly, to the people of Elk Grove.

Mr. Detrick can now be called a proven LIAR. And by his own hand no less. Price less!!!

Pegasus said...

I agree with several of the above posters that the FPPC has to revisit this investigation and set aside the previous adjudication or re-open and refile the charges they dismissed. They should be able to do so since the statements made in the filed stipulation by Councilman Detrick were false and misleading.

To ignore this matter and simply hope it goes away, leaves the FPPC with much egg of their face, an affirmation they are inept or worse, corrupt.

Mr. Detrick really should repay that money immediately as he stated he already had. If he refuses, he should resign. He will have brought substantial disgrace to our city, himself and his family.

I'm becoming ashamed to say I live in Elk Grove. It seems like one misstep after another by our city leaders.

Anonymous said...

Our city councilmen and mayor have thick skin. It didn't bother them what we call them. These are not men of integrity and their lack of integrity is costing us dearly. No major employer or business is going to make a long term commitment to invest in this city. Who want to put up with corruption, and organized crimes? Inaction on our part as citizens of this city is being interpreted as endorsement of their conducts.

Anonymous said...

Our city councilmen and mayor have thick skin. It didn't bother them what we call them. These are not men of integrity and their lack of integrity is costing us dearly. No major employer or business is going to make a long term commitment to invest in this city. Who want to put up with corruption? Inaction on our part as citizens of this city is being interpreted as endorsement of their conducts.

Eliot Ness said...

It appears history may be repeating itself with the District 3 seat; thinking that seat with its perceived power is untouchable. Leary was charged by the Sacramento County DA’s office and subsequently convicted of real estate fraud; crimes he committed while on the Elk Grove City Council. Leary was also found guilty by the FPPC for using over $11,000 in campaign funds to pay his then girlfriend’s back rent; money he laundered through his campaign account, reporting on his 460s the money was for liquor he purchased for fundraisers, including a fundraiser Leary was hosting for John McGinness who was running for Sheriff at the time. When it all came out, Big John cancelled that fundraiser right now!

Anonymous said...

Here is your opportunity to let your voices be heard. Send an email to: Hyla Wagner, Chief Counsel, FPPC
hwagner@fppc.ca.gov
Let her know your thoughts. She apparently has some oversight authority on this "investigation." You don't need to go to city council; you don't have to endure the ridicule the mayor gives speakers; you don't have to stand in line...send an email....do it now. I believe Detrick is loose cannon AND the FPPC screwed this up..they need to fix both!!

Betty on Fallbrook said...

I agree with Pegasus above. The FPPC needs to hold Mr. Detrick accountable. They evidently took him for his word that he had repaid the money from his personal accounts. Either that or they are corrupt as we are seeing so many other government agencies. Perhaps the state auditor's office would be interested in looking into the FPPC files.

A call to them may be warranted if this issue isn't resolved post haste. Someone here needs to held accountable. It's obvious Mr. Detrick has culpability here, perhaps the FPPC or their employees, past or present, share guilt here.

Hopefully we'll get to the truth of the matter.

Are you listening FPPC and Hyla Wagner?

Anonymous said...

Looks like we made the front page headlines in the SacBee this morning....

http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article19693554.html

first time poster said...

This really is appalling. I'm embarrassed for our city and for Mr. Detrick's family. What kind of message does this send to his kids, assuming he has kids?
Does a person's word mean nothing in today's society? This is another example of the degredation of America, played out on the front page of the newspaper brought to you by my hometown and dirty politics.

The FPPC has blame here as well, allowing such language in their stipulation that he had repaid the monies when he hadn't. I too think the state auditors office or perhaps the Attorney General's Office should look into the FPPC and find out what's behind all of this. On it's face is smells bad, like deal was made on the sly.

I agree with others, Mr. Detrick needs to RESIGN IMMEDIATELY.

Anonymous said...

.


Sprawling blob of a city.

Boring subdivisions.

Strip centers

Fast food joints

$100 million soccer palace

Elk Grove is going to become a steaming dumpster fire of a valley arm pit.

Who cares if we are rapidly running out of water.

Just keep on grading the land and throw up the sticks and stucco.

By the developers, of the developers and FOR the developers.




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