State Fines Fullerton Councilwoman $100 for Late Disclosure

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Fullerton Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald has agreed to pay a $100 fine to the state’s political watchdog agency after she failed to disclose details related to her position at the lobbying firm Curt Pringle & Associates.

Most public officials are required to file public statements of economic interest, or Form 700s, that outline income sources, real estate holdings and gifts. The forms allow journalists and members of the public to watch for potential conflicts of interest as government officials award contracts and make other decisions that could affect their financial interests.

In a brief interview, Fitzgerald said she disclosed income from Curt Pringle & Associates on the Form 700 she filed this year but neglected to specify that she is a vice president at the firm. The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) issued her the smallest fine possible and found no “intent to conceal” or any conflicts of interest stemming from her position with the lobby firm and her decisions on council.

Fitzgerald amended her form to disclose her vice president position once she was informed of the violation, she said.

“The explanation is as simple as it gets,” Fitzgerald said.

Earlier this year, Voice of OC published an article showing how Fitzgerald’s disclosures, while meeting the law’s standards under the Political Reform Act, don’t go very far in shedding light on potential conflicts.

While Fitzgerald discloses income from Curt Pringle & Associates to her consulting firm CL7 Communications, Inc., the disclosures don’t identify Curt Pringle & Associates’ clients. Without that next level of disclosure, it’s impossible for the public to know precisely where her work for Pringle might conflict with her public duties, say government watchdogs.

“A lot of times [the disclosures] are not particularly meaningful, and this is… a poster child example,” Jessica Levinson, president of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, stated in the article.

At the time of the article, City Hall watchers questioned Fitzgerald’s comments at a Fullerton council meeting in April criticizing the Orange County Water District’s handling of a years-long dispute over groundwater contamination in central county. An attorney who had hired Curt Pringle & Associates had worked for one of the polluters, and some questioned whether Fitzgerald was using her council seat to advocate for a client.

Fiztgerald said at the time Curt Pringle & Associates hadn’t worked for anyone involved in the groundwater battle since 2012

How deeply the FPPC looked at Fitzgerald’s potential conflicts is unclear. A full list of Pringle’s clients isn’t publicly available, and Fitzgerald said FPPC officials didn’t ask her to identify the firm’s clients.

The commission is scheduled to approve the fine at its Oct. 15 meeting.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • Bob Brock

    Jennifer Fitzgerald does more for her community in terms of volunteer and service than all the commenters on this blog combined. She has high ethical standards an her only omission was not putting “VP” on her form. Big deal.

    • RyanCantor

      . . . was the gratuitous personal attack really necessary?

      Quite frankly, you don’t have a clue regarding what any of us do. If you want to extol Ms. Fitzgerald’s (copious) service, you can do so without devaluing everyone else.

      • Bob Brock

        Sorry Ryan. Did not mean to hurt your feelings. I thought those in the rough and tumble world of blogger commenters had thicker skins.

        • RyanCantor

          We don’t. We’re very fragile.

      • Greg Diamond

        Ryan, I don’t know this fellow (perhaps because he appears to come from the 1940s.) Is there any reason to trust his evaluation of a Pringle employee who tries to keeps the specifics hidden as having “high ethical standards” or is he just another unprincipled bullshitter? Thanks in advance for the info.

  • RyanCantor

    She’ll want to be Fullerton’s Mayor next year, which sets up a very troublesome situation.

    Acting as Fullerton’s primary spokesperson and advocate while getting paid to advocate for someone else at the same time.

    Not exactly devoid of appearances of impropriety.

    • Cynthia Ward

      Once again, “I didn’t HAVE TO….”

    • @Dan Chmielewski

      Isn’t that what Tait does? He’s Anaheim’s mayor yet his business gets government contracts from the county and Garden Grove. But per Ryan, that’s ok.

      • RyanCantor

        No, Dan. That’s not what he does. It’s not even a close comparison.

        Assuming you’re right and that is what he does, it wouldn’t excuse anyone else’s bad behavior. I know that’s a difficult concept for you, but just because one person does something naughty . . . it’s not OK for everyone else to do it, too.

        If you’d like to attack Tom Tait, do it on an appropriate post. It’s a non sequitur here.

        If you’d like to bully me, I’m sure we can work something out that doesn’t involve your keyboard.

        • @Dan Chmielewski

          where did you read “bullying” into anything here? And you are the king of non-sequitur arguments Mr. Cantor. But it almost sounds like you’re inviting me to settle this with a fistfight? You are a child.

          • RyanCantor

            MORE name calling, Dan?

            Keep up the good work elevating every single exchange in which you participate.