LA Lawyer Defends Elk Grove Vice Mayor, Says Questionable Expenses 'Permissible'

A Los Angeles-based lawyer has come to the defense of Elk Grove's Vice Mayor after questionable expenses were revealed on his most recent semi-annual campaign financial disclosure.

That form, the so-called California Form 460, showed that Elk Grove Vice Mayor Steve Ly reported five $100 donations to individuals. Each of the five donations was described as funeral expenses, and using the forms coding system, classified as office expenses. 

After being twice questioned and not responding to a constituent on the matter and facing the possibility of having a California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) complaint filed against him, Ly, a law school graduate but not admitted to the California State Bar, relented and retained the services of Los Angeles-based Nossaman law firm for counsel.

"After Mr. Ly’s 460 was filed and an article posted on EGN, I sent him an email simply asking him to explain the funeral expenses coded as office expenses.  That seemed odd to me," said Elk Grove resident Connie Conley, who initially questioned Ly. "When Mr. Ly did not respond, I followed up three weeks later telling him that if he refused to answer me, maybe he would answer the FPPC.”

In her letter addressing the questions, lawyer Amber R. Maltbie said because of his leadership position in the Hmong community, these expenses are permissible under the Political Reform Act. Citing the act, Maltbie stated that "certain expenditures, including personal gifts, must be directly related to political, legislative or governmental purpose," and by implication, these expenses met that standard. 

Although Maltbie implied the donations were because of Ly's status, she did not elaborate on how they met any the political, legislative or governmental purpose as outlined in the act. Ly and Maltbie did not respond to an email request seeking an explanation on how these expenses qualified as such.

Should Ly have a complaint filed against him, he would be the third current member of the Elk Grove City Council to come under the scrutiny of the FPPC.

In the past, Council Member Pat Hume was fined for failing to report a lobbying dinner and Steve Detrick was twice fined for using campaign funds for the purchase of a vacation and for expending $93,000 of his campaign funds for personal use.

In response to Maltbie's letter on behalf of Ly, Conley added, "While admirable, as it is clear Mr. Ly is extremely committed to the Hmong community, why isn’t he donating monies from his personal account?



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