The Fair Political Practices Commission, in a suit filed Jan. 23 in Vista Superior Court, seeks penalties against publisher Jim Kydd that could exceed $30,000.
Political Reform Act through their effort to defeat City Council members Jerome Stocks and Mark Muir in 2012.
The commission’s enforcement chief, Gary Winuk, alleges Kydd, 69, and his committee, EncinitasElections.com, committed six violations of the state’s
Kydd was unavailable for comment, but his son Chris, advertising manager of The Coast News, on Jan. 28 said: “Personally, I think it’s just lawyers trying to get themselves paid.” He went on to say the allegations were “trumped up” and “not real offenses.”
An investigation began after Henry Eiler of Encinitas and Kenneth Moser of San Diego sent the FPPC and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis a 25-page letter last September listing what they alleged were 40 violations of state law.
“In 2012, Kydd clearly failed to file several campaign reports and comply with numerous other requirements that illegally hid his identity as a sponsor on campaign advertisements while engaging in political advocacy,” said the letter signed by Eiler.
The elections watchdog agency initially looked at a political action committee called Encinitas Project Committee For Proposition A, which was operated by Susan Turney and Olivier Canler and which reported it had received $10,145 of in-kind donations from Kydd’s publication during the six months up to June 30, 2013, Eiler said.
“However it appears that this number failed to include several thousand dollars’ worth of advertising,” his letter said.
The FPPC lawsuit, though, doesn’t mention the Proposition A campaign. It accuses only Kydd of using personal funds in trying to oust Muir and Stocks.
“The expenditures made by Defendant Committee [the website] included newspaper advertisements, bumper stickers, and a website in opposition to Mr. Stocks and Mr. Muir,” says the suit.
Chris Kydd, who has worked at The Coast News for 12 years, said he wasn’t “fully involved” in meeting the campaign spending requirements, but insisted in a phone interview that “we were well aware of the limits of what we could provide and we reported everything.”
Of the allegations, he said, it looked as if “a lot of them were ridiculous.”
Proposition A, backed by The Coast News and the website, was a measure limiting building heights in Encinitas to two stories and requiring public votes on land-use issues. It passed in a special June election with nearly 52 percent of the vote.
EncinitasElections.com is no longer online. But versions of it showing links to The Coast News and other coverage of Proposition A and an effort to “dump” council members Jerome Stocks and Mark Muir can still be seen on archive.org.
The case was assigned to Judge Robert Dahlquist, with a first conference set for Oct. 10, 2014.
Muir was re-elected in the November 2012 election, but Stocks — a council member since 2000 — was defeated.
FPPC lawsuits are rare.
“The agency does not file suits frequently, only two last year,” said FPPC spokesman Richard Hertz in Sacramento. “Can’t comment publicly on the size of the fine because of the pending case, but if you check out the enforcement actions on our website, you will get an idea of the ranges and see it would be substantial.”
In fact, a 2013 FPPC annual report said 257 cases led to prosecutions, including fines that year. Nearly 600 resulted only in warning letters.
Former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez of Bakersfield was fined $60,000, “the largest fine ever levied for improperly using campaign money,” the report said.
The 27-member FPPC Enforcement Division went after Kydd after complaints over newspaper ads not being properly labeled, failing to file required paperwork and exceeding a $1,000 campaign spending limit.
Moser told U-T San Diego that Kydd made a “black and white attempt to conceal his identity” in his actions, and “when the publisher of a newspaper does it that’s way over the top.”
Kydd did not respond to email from the Courier, but told U-T San Diego in October: “I was never intending to hide myself from anything. I just didn’t want to put The Coast News’ name on stuff that wasn’t Coast News.”