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State fines Santa Ana mayor $13,000 for real estate deal

Fair Political Practices Commission approves settlement with longtime Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido

A state commission unanimously agreed to fine the mayor of Santa Ana $13,000 in connection with accusations that he profited from a real estate deal with an auto parts dealer and then voted to make the business owner the city’s exclusive contractor.

Mayor Miguel Pulido agreed to pay the fine for six violations of the Political Reform Act, according to stipulations of the agreement released last week.

The settlement was negotiated with the enforcement division of the Fair Political Practices Commission and resulted from a joint investigation with the Orange County district Attorney’s office, which was conducting its own legal review.

The FPPC also handed down fines in San Bernardino County for election-related infractions. The fines ranged from $150 to $5,000.

Among those penalized in San Bernardino were District Atty. Mike Ramos and his campaign committee treasurer Marvin Reiter, who received $5,000 fines for failing to file a pre-election campaign statement on time and failing to itemize about $14,000 of credit card expenses.

Clifton Harris, an unsuccessful candidate for sheriff; Randolph Beasley, an unsuccessful supervisorial candidate; and Grover Merritt, who ran unsuccessfully for district attorney, were also fined for various violations.

Pulido’s violations stem from a 2010 transaction in which the longtime mayor agreed to exchange a downtown parking lot his family owned for a home in nearby Westminster that belonged to auto parts dealer Rupen James Akoubian, according to FPPC ducements.

A preliminary report signed as part of the transfer by Pulido's father and the business owner described the deal as "an exchange worth $200,000," but the county assessor disputed the amount, determining the home was actually worth $430,000.

In 2012, Pulido became the sole owner of the home and sold it for $397,000. An independent appraisal paid for by Pulido as part of the investigation valued his family's vacant lot at $720,000.

In January 2011, Pulido was part of a unanimous vote to renew a contract with Akoubian's auto parts company.

The FPPC settlement states that his vote represented a conflict of interest: "Mayor Pulido knew or should have known that the vote would have a financial effect on Mr. Akoubian."

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