Here’s a presentation I am making to city council tonight. There may be typos, it’s been a hectic day.
Let me begin by saying, although I was a vocal opponent of Measure B I accept the will of the majority of Burbank voters. This presentation is not about the airport. Instead this is about the Committee for Yes on Measure B and the Burbank Hospitality Association, otherwise known as Visit Burbank. These two bodies have violated laws governing public campaigns and open meetings.
Public funds of at least $50,000 were gifted to unambiguously urge a particular result in an election which is a violation of state law. City staff members took part in the disbursement of these funds, which is also prohibited.
According to public records obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request, on September 23, 2016, the Burbank Hospitality Association made a $50,000 contribution to the “Committee for Yes on Measure B. ” A week earlier, on September 14th, Sunder Ramani, a principal officer of the “Committee for Yes on Measure B,” had attended the BHA’s monthly meeting and during Public Comments asked the BHA to make the $50,000 contribution to his organization.
According to minutes from that meeting: “Sunder Ramani, attended the meeting to represent the ‘Committee for Yes on Measure B,’ a community initiative to educate the public on the importance of voting yes on Measure B during the November 8th election ballot. Mr. Ramani stated that the purpose of the initiative was to reach the 24,000 absentee voters of Burbank and educate them on the facts of Measure B. Mr. Ramani requested a financial contribution of $50,000 from the BHA which would help create and distribute mailers for this initiative. Since Mr. Ramani attended the meeting and spoke during Public Comment, the item was not on the agenda.”
In a violation of the Brown Act the vote to award the funds passed at that same meeting, but was not reported properly to the public in a further violation of Senate Bill 751. The Committee for Yes on Measure B did in subsequent weeks send out mass mailings as described by Mr. Ramani to households across all areas of Burbank.
This transfer of $50,000 of public funds to campaign in favor of Measure B was illegal. In doing so the Committee for Yes on Measure and the Burbank Hospitality Association board violated the following laws (and others detailed elsewhere):
- Regulations of the Fair Political Practices Commission, § 18901.1. Campaign Related Mailings Sent at Public Expense
- California Government Code 8314 “It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.”
I understand that these are serious allegations. And I would hope the city council moves to place an item on the agenda to examine these charges. A small team of concerned citizens has gathered this data and we expect that the city council will take action on this matter.
When the BHA awarded $50,000 dollars to the Committee for Yes on Measure B they struck a blow against the trust we citizens have for our local government. I am appalled by what our team has uncovered and I hope this is an isolated incident. At best it was a mistake… at worst corruption.
In conclusion, this morning I filed a sworn complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission on this matter. In the coming weeks there will be further actions taken.
The council will have to take action. Your constituents are watching you, taking note of the reactions tonight and spreading the word. And please remember the liability for these offenses will fall upon staff and possibly the city council.