San Jose’s Ethics Commission voted 3-2 Wednesday to dismiss charges against 20 candidates and City Council members who unwittingly broke local election laws.
Almost the entire City Council—including Mayor Sam Liccardo—was under investigation for failing to report late campaign donations. According to the Mercury News, commissioners Madhavee Vemulapalli and Adrian Gonzales voted against dropping the charges.
The issue arose last year, when the Ethics Commission fined Councilman Manh Nguyen $10,000 for missing campaign filings. Nguyen appealed the penalty, blaming City Clerk Toni Taber for giving him the wrong directions about what and when to file late contribution reports.
Only then did the Ethics Commission realize the extent of the problem, that 20 candidates in the past two years made the same mistake.
Last fall, commissioners decided to spend $30,000 to have an attorney look into the matter. Taber acknowledged she gave bad advice and urged the commission to dismiss the charges.
Part of the mix-up stemmed from the city’s rules going above and beyond the state requirements for campaign reporting. In October, the council approved sweeping changes to local campaign law to simplify the process and avoid confusion in future elections.