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New campaign law up for examination Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Jan 08 2011 12:00 PM

The Chula Vista City Council on Tuesday will hear the second reading of proposed amendments made to the city's campaign contribution ordinance.

The City Attorney's Office has been working to update the ordinance since June 2010.

The city's charter requires that the council adopt "reasonable regulations related to campaign contributions" to avoid the potential for undue or inappropriate influence over elected officials.

Upon the amendment's first reading at the Dec. 14 City Council meeting, the majority of the council voted to decrease the opportunity for potential abuse, eliminate duplicate efforts of the Political Reform Act, review the cost of enforcement and make recent case law updates.

Councilman Rudy Ramirez said in the past the ordinance has been used and abused as a political weapon.

"The revisions that we're intending to make are for people who are knowingly and willfully filing a false claim and that is punishable," he said.

In November the council also voted to decrease fines from $5,000 to $500 for intentional violations and $250 for negligent ones.

Recently elected City Attorney Glen Googins suggested the council consider increasing the fines as a better deterrent to misconduct.

On Dec. 14, council voted to issue $1,000 fines for intentional violations and $500 for negligent ones.

In addition, council voted to include penalties for false allegations made under sworn statements to be prosecuted for perjury.

The ordinance requires that the complaint be sworn under penalty of perjury before it can be filed. Therefore, anyone who knowingly files a false complaint could be charged with perjury and the case would be sent to the District Attorney's Office to prosecute.

The amended ordinance provides that the district attorney will receive complaints that allege knowing or willful violations and complaints alleging violations of the Political Reform Act will be sent to the Fair Political Practices Commission for further investigation.

One issue of concern for council was the city attorney's involvement with authority over investigations of himself.

Googins suggested council give him authority to appoint a panel of outside investigators, instead of giving that authority to an independent board of ethics.

During public comment, Ned Ardagna criticized the ordinance.

"Legislation should be made by the City Council, not the elected city attorney," he said.

Former City Councilman John Moot said the council would be wise to accept and implement input from the public.

"It would be wise to reconsider the message that you're sending to the public," he said. "Because the message that appears right now is: we're going to bypass any real public input."

If, upon its second reading, the revised ordinance is passed it will take effect in 30 days.

The city has spent $76,000 in the last five years for investigations into complaints, according to Assistant City Attorney Jill Maland.

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