Santa Ana mayor concedes to Political Reform Act violations in deal

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido will pay $13,000 to settle accusations he violated fair political practices

The longtime mayor of Santa Ana has agreed to pay $13,000 to settle 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.

In accepting the settlement negotiated with the enforcement division of the Fair Political Practices Commission, Miguel Pulido admitted six violations of the Political Reform Act.

The commission will vote May 21 on whether to accept the settlement, which resulted from a joint investigation with the Orange County district attorney's office.

Pulido has been under threat of criminal charges, but the statute of limitations passed in January, according to a legal opinion commissioned by the city. On Monday, district attorney spokeswoman Roxi Fyad said, "Our legal review is not complete."

Reached by phone Monday, Pulido said he was "pleased with the stipulation" but did not wish to comment further.

Pulido, who in November was elected to his 11th consecutive term as mayor, has been under public scrutiny since the Voice of OC first reported the real estate swap with NAPA Orange County Auto Parts.

In the 2010 transaction, Pulido agreed to exchange a downtown parking lot his family owned for a Westminster home belonging to Rupen James Akoubian, the auto parts dealer, according to the FPPC documents' "summary of the facts."

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," according to the documents.

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 voted to renew a contract with Akoubian's auto parts company. The vote passed unanimously as part of the consent calendar.

An analysis conducted by a law firm specializing in municipal law and released by the city of Santa Ana last year concluded the mayor covered up the real estate transaction with the auto parts company and later voted to award the auto parts firms an exclusive no-bid $1.35-million contract

Of the six violations, the settlement maintains 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."

The remaining five violations pertain to reporting violations in his statements of economic interest.

In his statements provided for his 2009 roles as mayor and a member of the boards of directors for the Orange County Transportation Authority and South Coast Air Quality Management District, Pulido erroneously reported the lot as being held by the Pulido Family Trust, the settlement documents state.

"The property was not held in trust, and misreporting it in this way resulted in the property being reported on the wrong schedule," according to the documents.

Pulido did the same on his 2010 filings, which "led to omission of information about rental income." He also failed to report the real estate swap, the Westminster home and Akoubian as a source of income, according to the violation.

For his 2011 OCTA and AQMD reports, Pulido again failed to disclose the Westminster home, which was not required for his mayoral filings.

Only in amendments for the 2012 filings, at which time the report notes he had come under media scrutiny for the deal, did Pulido disclose the house and its sale — but he underreported its fair market value, the FPPC documents state.

The five-member commission generally accepts deals as proposed by the enforcement division, though the panel can recommend an increase, decrease or rejection of a fine, said Jay Wierenga, FPPC communications director.

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