Galena West, the Chief of the Enforcement Division of the California State Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”), in her letter to public advocacy attorney Jason Bezis, announced that the FPPC has opened an investigation in the role of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (“MTC”), the Bay Area Toll Authority (“BATA”), the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (“WETA”), and the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District’s role in the passage of Regional Measure 3 in June 2018.
This action if the direct result of a sworn complaint filed by public Bezis on behalf of the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund (“TRANSDEF”) and the Bay Area Transportation Working Group (“BATWG”), in June 2019. That complaint alleges multiple violations of the law, including illegal use of public resources and failure to file proper public disclosure statements by multiple agencies and individuals to,
“…to promote passage of the $4.5 billion Regional Measure 3 (hereinafter “RM3”) bridge toll increase by voters in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area on June 5, 2018. Complainants allege that Respondents MTC, BATA and WETA have violated the Political Reform Act by failing to file campaign expenditure reports and by failing to include disclosure statements on their communications. The central allegations concern violations of FPPC Regulation 18420.1 (Payment by Local Agency for a Campaign-Related Communication).” [Emphasis added]
“Complainants believe that Respondents MTC, BATA and WETA illegally coordinated with the Respondent YES ON RM 3-KEEPING THE BAY AREA MOVING campaign committee (FPPC ID No. 1398329) and other RM3 proponents to promote voter passage of RM3 on June 5, 2018.” [Emphasis added]
“Complainants allege that Respondents MTC/BATA illegally supplied public resources that Respondent YES ON RM3 campaign committee used to produce television and internet advertisements supporting passage of RM3.” [Emphasis added]
In response to this decision by the FPPC, Attorney Bezis has asked the California Attorney General and Bay Area District Attorneys to open criminal and civil investigations of their own into MTC and its activities, in particular that MTC has engaged in criminal misappropriation of public funds (Penal Code sec. 424) and/or civil misappropriation of public resources (Government Code sec. 8314) to aid passage of Regional Measure 3, and/or illegal express advocacy under Government Code sec. 54964.
Commenting on the FPPC decision, attorney Bezis noted that
“This should alter the AB 1487 debate immediately. MTC is under investigation for illegal use of public resources to aid passage of a regional measure in 2018. The Legislature needs to conduct its own careful investigation of past illegal conduct at MTC before giving MTC new powers to oversee regional housing and to propose new regional ballot measures. AB 1487 ought to be frozen in place in the Legislature, with no further action taken. Governor Newsom should veto or refuse to sign AB 1487 until all RM3 investigations are complete.”
The complaint against MTC, et al, is a follow-up to a previous complaint filed by Bezis, concerning BART and the 2016 bond Measure RR. That resulted in a rare finding by the FPPC in Dec. 2018 that a public entity had engaged in illegal campaign activity in violation of the Political Reform Act. The FPPC forced BART to register retroactively as a campaign committee and to pay fines for failing to file campaign finance reports and for failing to disclose within its public communications that they were campaign materials. The FPPC made an extraordinary public call to Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Bay Area district attorneys to prosecute BART for illegal use of public resources to aid passage of Measure RR.