S. E. Williams, Staff Writer
Late last week the California Fair Political Practices Commission cited and fined San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon as a result of issues that occurred during last year’s election.
According to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) the matter surfaced during an audit performed by the Enforcement Division of the agency. The audit was performed as part of the contractual obligation between the FPPC and the County of San Bernardino to audit each candidate’s campaign committee for elected county offices.
McMahon of course, succeeded as a candidate in the Primary Election on June 3, 2014. During the election cycle, Friends of John McMahon for San Bernardino Sheriff 2014 was his candidate controlled committee and Marvin Reiter was the committee’s treasurer.
According to FPPC documentation reviewed by The Voice, McMahon, Friends of John McMahon for San Bernardino Sheriff 2014 and Reiter received a cashier’s check in the amount of $500 and a money order in the amount of $100 which were not drawn from the bank accounts of the alleged contributors.
When a local reporter asked about the contributions in question and the resulting FPPC fine, McMahon simply replied, “It was a mistake.”
McMahon’s ‘mistake’ along with San Bernardino County Fourth District Supervisor Curt Hagman (also named by the FPPC last Thursday for a similar violation), added them to a growing list of elected San Bernardino County officials to be fined by the FPPC this year. Included among them are San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos and San Bernardino County Auditor/Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector Larry Walker. In May they were fined $3,000 and $150 respectively by the FPPC for comparable offenses.
In 2012, in the wake of a series of quid pro quo accusations, accusations that plagued various county leaders for years; and, in some instances resulted in criminal indictments; San Bernardino County Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford championed campaign finance reform and introduced a county initiative that ultimately resulted in the Fair Political Practices Commission’s contract with the county.
The contract, which became effective in January, 2013, authorized the Commission to monitor county election officials and candidates to assure compliance with both state and county campaign finance laws and ordinances. Since that time, the Commission has audited nearly 30 San Bernardino County candidates, warned four and fined at least eight.
The Board of Supervisors renewed its contract with the FPPC in December 2014. The contract is now extended through December 31, 2016.
In addition to FPPC oversight, Rutherford’s ordinance also established limits on campaign contributions to local candidates. The new limit of $3,900 aligned San Bernardino County candidates with the same limit imposed on candidates for state offices.
San Bernardino was the first county in the state to establish a contractual relationship with the FPPC to help enforce its campaign finance ordinance.
Last week’s news from the FPPC was another set-back in a string of unfortunate events to impact McMahon’s credibility this year and last. Included among them is the ongoing saga of the alleged, excessive use of force by deputies on inmates in San Bernardino County jails. His department is also faced with an FBI investigation for such misconduct by deputies at the West Valley Detention Center. In addition, several deputies are on paid administrative leave for allegedly beating a suspect, which has also resulted in a second FBI investigation.