An investigation regarding a mailer distributed by the city of Palm Springs that opponents claimed was intended to sway voters against a recent vacation rental ballot initiative has been resolved with no wrongdoing found on the part of the city, officials announced Wednesday.
The Fair Political Practices Commission advised city officials in a letter dated Monday that its mailer “did not contain express advocacy” regarding Measure C, which sought to ban most vacation rentals within the city. Measure C was soundly defeated during the June 5 election.
The FPPC said that it received “several sworn complaints” regarding the mailer, which was distributed to residents in May, with the complaints contending that the city advocated voting against Measure C through mass mailing at the public’s expense, a violation of the Political Reform Act.
The FPPC concluded that in addition to not expressly advocating against the measure, statements within the mailer that pointed to potentially negative impacts of passing Measure C were “not sufficiently inflammatory and argumentative to conclude the mailing constituted campaign activity rather than informational material.”
Some of the negative impacts referred to in the mailer included defunding the recently formed Vacation Rental Compliance Department and diverting Palm Springs police officers from crimes to vacation rental guest complaints such as noise violations.
“The city of Palm Springs is committed to fulfilling its responsibility to keep voters well informed, and refraining from advocacy in public education related to ballot measures,” City Attorney Edward Z. Kotkin said. “We are pleased that the FPPC determined that the sworn complaints it received about the Measure C mailer did not provide a legal basis for any action, and closed the case.”
Similar complaints were lodged against the city last fall regarding Measure D, a half-cent sales tax increase to support emergency services and Measure E, which would apply additional taxes to commercial, medical and recreational cannabis businesses. Both measures were approved by voters last November.
An FPPC investigation into mailers distributed by the city, which opponents deemed were misleading, also resulted in no wrongdoing found on the part of the city.