The state’s political watchdog agency has closed the books on a Democrat’s complaint against Chula Vista mayor candidate John McCann, finding no wrongdoing.
In a letter Tuesday to Republican McCann and his treasurer, Angela Brereton of the Fair Political Practices Commission said: “The Enforcement Division will not pursue an enforcement action in this matter.”
Two weeks ago, Jose Cerda filed a complaint with the FPPC, alleging McCann accepted “an illegal and excessive in-kind contribution in the form of deeply discounted personal services” from The Special Investigations Unit, a private firm owned by former FBI agent Lawrence Hamilton.
Cerda, a founder of the Chula Vista Democratic Club, cited Hamilton’s modest $1,000 charge for shadowing Ammar Campa-Najjar, McCann’s mayoral rival, looking to prove the Democrat didn’t live in Chula Vista.
But the FPPC said McCann’s campaign statements show that his fund-raising committee “permissibly reported an estimated amount for the accrued expense for SIU.”
McCann’s committee amended the campaign statement when the invoice was received, “following FPPC guidance for accrued expenses,” the letter said. That was even before Cerda filed his complaint Oct. 4.
According to McCann’s filing, he paid Hamilton’s firm $2,669.50 for “opposition research.”
McCann treasurer Bill Baber, who also is attorney for “McCann Mayor 2022,” was pleased with the Sacramento agency’s news.
“We are happy the FPPC quickly dismissed this bogus complaint,” Baber told Times of San Diego. “We expect the Chula Vista Ethics Commission to do likewise.”
On Tuesday, McCann said in a statement:
“The dismissed complaint was an attempt to distract voter’s attention away from the valid investigation that proved Ammar does not live in Chula Vista. The former FBI agent’s investigation showed the U.S. Post Office certifying his personal mailing address is in the City of San Diego, Amazon delivering his personal packages to his home in the City of San Diego and over 70 pictures and videos for over a month verifying he lives in the City of San Diego and not Chula Vista.”
Citing the Chula Vista Municipal Code, Cerda alleged that compelling evidence existed that Councilman McCann and his committee violated the city’s campaign finance
ordinance via a “prohibited in-kind contribution.”
Cerda didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
But McCann still faces scrutiny in Chula Vista — even as he leads Campa-Najjar 36% to 31% among likely voters in a new poll released Tuesday.
City Clerk Kerry Bigelow said the complaint was made under the city’s Campaign Contribution Ordinance, which is separate from the complaint made to the FPPC.
“The FPPC’s decision on the complaint it received will be provided to the city’s assigned Enforcement Authority attorney,” Bigelow said via email. “They will decide the extent to which it may be relevant to the complaint filed with the city.”
She said the attorney — Roger Geddes — has until Nov. 4 to determine whether probable cause exists under city law to seek prosecution.
Updated at 10:09 a.m. Oct. 19, 2022