FPPC's Complaint Investigation on Detrick Travels Well-worn Path, Symptomatic of Larger Problem

May 31, 2013 | Earlier this week the Elk Grove Citizen reported that the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has...

May 31, 2013 |

Earlier this week the Elk Grove Citizen reported that the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has initiated an investigation of Elk Grove Vice Mayor Steve Detrick. According to the story the investigation came following a complaint filed by Elk Grove resident and one-time Detrick supporter Connie Conley.

Without going into the details of the investigation - they can be read in the Citizen's story - from our perspective there are a couple take-aways from this investigation and the allegations leveled against Detrick.

Readers of this site will recall Detrick's fellow Council Member Pat Hume was also recently investigated by the FPPC and was fined for not reporting meals he received while on a lobbying trip to Washington DC.  Although Hume admitted sloppy recording keeping and was levied with a civil fine, will there be any political damage to Hume that can't be overcome?

Likewise, depending on the results of the FPPC's investigation of Detrick, short of a criminal indictment, will he suffer any political damage from a civil fine that can't be overcome?

Call us cynical, but we tend to think that both men will not substantially suffer any political harm from these actual or potential fines should they seek reelection to the city council.

The reason? Quite simply - money.

Both council members have amassed large war chests from monied supporters who have a particular agenda that they want ramrodded through. As Detrick demonstrated in 2008 when he defeated a very unpopular Mike Leary, if you want to unseat even a surly incumbent, you better come to the table with at least $100,000. 

Given that most people cannot raise that sort of money as the big-monied contributors already have placed their bets on the incumbents, who can realistically enter the race and have a chance to win? How many people following the Great Recession are willing or able to pony-up $100,000 of their own money for a chance to make $600 a month as a council member and then become beholden to monied interests to pay off the campaign debt?

Not surprisingly, Detrick and Council Member Jim Cooper ran unopposed last November for their respective seats. Where they unopposed because they have done such a great job or was the cost of entry into a viable race stacked against otherwise qualified citizen candidates?

This is not to say that transgressions that Hume made and that Detrick is being investigated for should not be addressed. We applaud those who point these matters out and agree they should be addressed and held to account where the law has been broken. 

Sadly, the reality remains that aside from some egg on their face, politicians who have overwhelming financial strength have the advantage of swamping anyone who opposes them in a campaign.

Until Elk Grove limits campaign fundraising, council members will continue to raise obscene amounts of money that will quell any viable campaigns and yes, they will continue to keep sloppy books or allegedly use campaign funds for personal use. Until these FPPC investigations can be used against an incumbent on a even playing field, don't expect any change in this sort of behavior.  

Copyright © 2013 by Elk Grove News. All rights reserved.

Post a Comment Default Comments


Silent Dogood said...

Here is the problem I have, and I wouldn't be surprised if this comment was removed or didn't get posted given this sites relationship with CC, however this person is not a good government activist looking out for the best interest of Elk Grove. In my 100's of years dating back to my manuscripts pre-revolution I have known many individuals that have the best interested of their fellow citizens at heart. CC does not. Each of her rants and saves and FPPC accusations stem from failed relationships of one type or another. Now she is not only going after Detrick, why? Because he no longer seeks her counsel, she wasn't invited over for Sunday Brunch, we don't know, but she is actively harassing his family and creating an environment that verges on criminal behavior.

It is one thing to hold our elected officials accountable, it is completely another to harass and punitively attack their families.

This person needs to be held accountable for her actions; she has lost all credibility with the public and with the Council.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Silent . . since you certainly aren’t. When Steve Detrick’s family member, or for that matter, any elected official's family member, receives $10,000 of taxpayers' money for an event sponsored by that elected official, and refuses to turn over a full accounting, which by law, they must when public monies are involved, then they themselves are opening up themselves for up for public scrutiny.

I am sure the Detricks deem this harassment because they have repeatedly refused to turn over the accounting. Others might call it being held accountable. Begs the question: What are they hiding?

Don’t like it, then don’t use your elected public office to monetarily benefit your family members. Nepotism is never a good thing in government. Some believe the lack of ethics and the promotion of nepotism in government results in unfairness.

Breaking a law you say, well Government Code Section Section 54954.3(c) states otherwise:

“The legislative body of a local agency shall not prohibit public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs or services of the agency, or of the acts or omissions of the legislative body.”

Sopmeone who used to care said...

Thanks for clarification, Connie.

Stronger Than Dirt said...

The Three Stages of Political Leadership:

Stage One: The Expanding Dirt Phase (aka The Great Ponzi Scheme)--Stage One cities are generally led by unsophisticated vote-getters who are supported by the easy dollars from the beneficiaries of converting dirt to cash, directly or indirectly. The Ponzi scheme relies on an ever-expanding supply of dirt, hence the SOI, Connector Road and HCP. The Dirt Developers don't care who supplies the votes they need, and will throw their money at the chosen ones fast and furious to keep the game locked out from the random skeptical resident who may wish to join the "race". The Dirt Ponzi Scheme supplies relatively short term revenues as long as there remains new dirt, and does not require sophisticated budgeting skills because the "pie" is always expanding. No political vision is needed, just keep those "ground-breaking shovels" polished and at the ready. Dirt Paradise is every inland city from Redding to Bakersfield.

Stage Two: The Built-out Phase (or, the Dirt comes home to roost). It may take many years for a city to reach this stage, even 20 years is not unheard of. By this time, the Dirt Capitalists have moved on to greener pastures and the city they leave behind will probably raise the ire of a very large population (mostly in the older neighborhoods that sprawl left behind). With the exiting of the Dirt Capitalists and short-term land sellers, the campaign cash is harder to come by in this stage, and a common resident(s) may arise as a populist leader who can raise cash from unhappy fellow residents and older business owners suffering from the newer sprawl outward. The new rooftop-retail cycle peters out and neglected, aging infrastructure and demographic shifts are now coming home to roost. Short-sighted budgeting and planning has created a quality of life issue that is difficult to reverse.

Stage Three: The Decline and Exit(aka the Hoover Vacuum) Phase: This is the final stage of Dirt Capitalism and urban renewal does not come cheap at this point. Residents who lived during the previous two phases begin to vote with their feet and exercise an exit strategy in search of a new community for their retirement, better performing schools, safer neighborhoods, or compatible demographics. This phase will require the utmost sophistication of leadership-leaders with a vision willing to reach out to the public. By this time, the sucking sound (Hoover) and brain drain leaves the city scrambling for leaders. If they arrive, good news. If not, then further decline of property values, image, and cuts in services from falling revenues will place the city on a downward spiral.

Campaign Finance Reform? As long as there is Dirt, not a chance!

Anonymous said...

Richard Saunders says, go back and check your Ben Franklin history Silent. It's Silence and that would certainly would be beneficial to your stance. Speaking in pluralities, disguised specifics, grammatical errors etc., is illuminating.

Very good article EGN. It really is all about the money and yes, dirt does equal money. Council gets the equation and is more than willing to take advantage of it. Those candidates that preach campaign finance reform will get no where because it takes lots of the green stuff to be heard.

Council feels that the money donated to their campaign account is their personal slush fund to do with as they please. Nope, gotta follow the rules folks.

Anonymous said...

Intriguing. Can't wait to see what this is all about.

Detrick has proven EGN correct with regard to following the money. Look at the money his campaign account received from Gil Moore. Moore wants special favors for a freeway sign. Is this a pay to play? Sure looks like it in this citizen's opinion. Sure is a good reason to vote for Ms. Wheat and back her on her campaign finance reform efforts. You take no money then you are owned by no one and you can get in trouble with the FPPC. Slam dunk.

Tom said...

Great article. So true.

Anonymous said...

The assertion that "both men will not substantially suffer any political harm from these actual or potential fines should they seek reelection to the city council" due to "Quite simply - money" is a non sequitur argument (it does not follow).
It is more likely that they will not suffer political harm because the offenses (or, in one case, *alleged* offense) simply do not rise to the point of being a material breach of public trust. It is the equivalent of bouncing a check... embarrassing and, perhaps, stupid but not criminal.

Follow Us



Elk Grove News Minute

All previous Elk Grove News Minutes, interviews, and Dan Schmitt's Ya' Gotta be Schmittin' Me podcasts are now available on iTunes

Elk Grove News Podcast