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Complaint against H.B. planning commissioner alleges violation of campaign finance laws

The state Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating a complaint, filed by former Planning Commissioner Mark Bixby, alleging that current Planning Commissioner Lyn Semeta wrongly accepted a campaign contribution from a downtown restaurant.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating a complaint, filed by former Planning Commissioner Mark Bixby, alleging that current Planning Commissioner Lyn Semeta wrongly accepted a campaign contribution from a downtown restaurant.

(Scott Smeltzer / HB Independent)

The state is investigating an allegation that Huntington Beach Planning Commissioner Lyn Semeta wrongly accepted a campaign contribution from a downtown restaurant with recent business before the city.

Former Planning Commissioner Mark Bixby filed the Aug. 2 complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Bixby alleges that Semeta, a City Council candidate, should not have accepted $550 from No Ka Oi in June after voting the month before to grant the Main Street restaurant a live entertainment permit.

Businesses cannot make campaign contributions greater than $250 while a decision affecting them is pending, according to state law. They also cannot give money until at least three months after a final decision is made.

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No Ka Oi gave the $550 to Semeta’s campaign June 28 — about seven weeks after the May 10 hearing on its entertainment permit, which was approved after a 5-0 vote.

In an interview Monday, Semeta said she was unaware of the campaign law and refunded the contribution Aug. 1, right after Bixby informed her.

“It was an extra $300 I should not have taken,” she said. “It was unintentional.”

Bixby, who has also filed FPPC complaints against other city officials and calls himself a City Hall watchdog, said he has “zero-tolerance” for those he believes flout campaign finance laws.

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“A planning commissioner is supposed to act like a judge when deciding whether to approve or deny a permit,” he said in an email. “An unbiased decision must be rendered on whether the facts of the project disclosed on the public record meet the requirements of the law.”

Bixby, who served with Semeta on the Planning Commission in 2014, called Semeta’s acceptance of the campaign donation “most likely a mistake.”

FPPC spokesman Phillip Ung declined to comment on the case but said, in general, if violations are found, they can each carry an administrative fine or penalty of up to $5,000.

Multiple requests for comment to Dennis Boggeln, owner of No Ka Oi, were not returned.

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Brittany Woolsey, brittany.woolsey@latimes.com

Twitter: @BrittanyWoolsey


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