UPDATED at 4 p.m. on June 2, 2018: San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond, who is running for the 5th District county Board of Supervisors seat in Tuesday’s election, has been cleared by the city of violating its campaign finance rules. Click here to read the letter.
Six days before the June 5 election, the city of San Marcos appointed an outside attorney on Wednesday to investigate a complaint alleging Mayor Jim Desmond violated city campaign finance laws as part of his run for the county Board of Supervisors.
Why this matters
The San Marcos City Council has established campaign finance laws to limit the influence political contributions can have on elected officials.
Realtor Ana Rosvall filed the complaint on Tuesday with the city clerk and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. She alleges Desmond received contributions too close to when six donors had development projects voted on by the City Council. San Marcos requires a 12-month gap between campaign contributions and council votes.
A spokesman for Desmond, a Republican running for Supervisor Bill Horn’s open seat, said he doesn’t believe San Marcos’ campaign finance rules apply to a county race.
“The rules that govern our campaign are the county of San Diego rules,” spokesman John Hoy said. “We’re quite certain that we adhere to both the spirit and the letter of the law as they apply to the county supervisor race.”
Also running for Horn’s seat are Oceanside Councilman Jerry Kern, a Republican, and two Democrats, Jacqueline Arsivaud and Michelle Gomez.
Rosvall said she’s been involved in campaigns to stop housing developments that required zoning changes in San Marcos and unincorporated San Diego County. She’s a Democrat and said she filed the complaint against Desmond because she and others are concerned he is overly influenced by developers. Rosvall said she is happy the city is investigating her complaint.
“It’s so amazing that someone is taking us seriously and listening to us, and that it’s a process that’s working the way it’s supposed to,” she said.
Campaign finance rules in San Marcos say City Council members can’t vote on an issue that financially affects someone who gave them a campaign contribution of $100 or more during the previous 12 months. Council members also can’t receive contributions of $100 or more in the 12 months after casting a vote that affects that donor. The mayor is part of the council.
San Marcos City Attorney Helen Holmes Peak told inewsource Shawn Hagerty, an attorney with Best Best & Krieger, has been hired to investigate Rosvall’s complaint. Hagerty specializes in municipal and water law and is Santee’s city attorney, according to his law firm’s website.
The donors listed in the complaint include San Marcos Highlands developer Farouk Kubba. The council approved his project to build 169 single-family homes in November 2016. Kubba contributed $800 to Desmond’s supervisor campaign seven months later in June 2017. Three others working on the project also contributed a total of $1,350 to Desmond’s campaign.
Two other donors who had worked on the Brookfield Residential project to build 220 condominiums in San Marcos contributed a total of $650 to Desmond’s campaign. The City Council approved the project in January.
CORRECTION: Supervisor candidate Jerry Kern’s title was incorrect in the original version of this story, which has been updated to show he is an Oceanside councilman.
UPDATED at 4 p.m. on May 31, 2018: The state Fair Political Practices Commission confirmed it also received a complaint from Ana Rosvall and declined to comment further. The agency’s enforcement division reviews all complaints before deciding whether to investigate.
We’ll let you know when big things happen.