Commerce Councilwoman Tina Baca Del Rio. Photo via http://www.ci.commerce.ca.us/directory.aspx?EID=11
Commerce Councilwoman Tina Baca Del Rio. Photo via http://www.ci.commerce.ca.us/directory.aspx?EID=11

California election regulators are proposing the largest-ever financial penalty against a local elected official in the case of Commerce Councilwoman Tina Baca Del Rio, who is accused of illegally transferring campaign funds into her personal bank account and other violations.

Baca Del Rio is facing a $104,000 judgment from the state Fair Political Practices Commission, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. Officials also allege she missed deadlines to respond to the allegations and come to a negotiated settlement with the watchdog agency.

It’s a rare case of the commission proposing a default action against a politician, according to The Times. Public officials accused of wrongdoing by the commission usually settle with it on an agreed fine. Baca Del Rio’s penalty dwarfs the $40,000 fine levied in 2011 on former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who agreed to a settlement, for failing to disclose free tickets to sports and entertainment events.

If Baca Del Rio doesn’t pay the judgment, the watchdog could try to take other actions to collect, such as placing a lien against her house.

Baca Del Rio told The Times she has been responsive to commission officials. She also said the complaint filed with the agency against her that triggered the investigation was politically motivated and orchestrated by an opposing faction.

Baca Del Rio, who was recalled from the Commerce City Council in the 2008 general election, then reelected the following year, is accused of violating the state’s Political Reform Act on 24 counts, most of them for not timely and properly filing campaign finance disclosures between 2011 and 2013, or failing to file them at all. Four of those violations stem from allegations that she spent campaign funds on a home kitchen remodel and also transferred $8,134 in campaign cash into her personal bank account.

Of the total fine, $20,000 is for allegedly misusing campaign funds. It’s the part of the fine that she can’t use campaign funds to pay, meaning it will have to come from her own pocket.

—City News Service

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