Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido has once again been compelled to amend public disclosure forms, this time to show thousands of dollars in campaign debt he failed to disclose over a period of 18 months.
Meanwhile, the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission has launched a second investigation of the 11-term mayor to determine whether he violated state law with the omissions.
This is just the latest in a long line of instances in which the mayor failed to follow disclosure rules, or neglected to reveal ties with businesses seeking benefits from City Hall. In the past, he has shielded financial relationships with a city contractor, a developer who received millions in public subsidies from the city, and a businessman involved in a catering truck depot that had been granted permits by the city.
Pulido filed the latest amendments on Dec. 30, just days after the FPPC notified him of its newest investigation. The probe stems from a complaint by campaign finance watchdog Shirley Grindle, who requested the FPPC look into the issue after Voice of OC published an article showing that Pulido wiped away $15,750 in campaign debts as if they never existed.
According to Grindle, the state’s Political Reform Act requires candidates to publicly document whether campaign debts have been paid off, forgiven, or are ongoing. In other words, candidates have to show the entire money trail – there can be no gaps or discrepancies.
The debts were first disclosed on Pulido’s initial campaign finance filing for 2013, which covered January through June of that year. On a form disclosing creditors, known as a schedule F, Pulido showed debts to three businesses and one person – Rumores Spanish Newspaper, Stewart Sound, the DeSnoo and DeSnoo political consulting firm, and John P. Vega.
The second filing, which covered the second half of 2013, disclosed the same amount of debt but didn’t include the required schedule F.
Then on his 2014 filings, the debt disappeared altogether.
Creditors interviewed by Voice of OC said Pulido had been dodging demands to pay back the debts, and that they believed the mayor intended to stiff them.
Betty Torres, Editor at the Santa Ana-based Rumores, said she tried for awhile to get Pulido to pay his bills for campaign advertisements, but eventually stopped trying and forgave the debt.
Bob Stewart, owner of Stewart Sound, at first declined to comment on Pulido’s $2,250 debt to his business. But then Stewart said Pulido paid off the debt only after learning that Voice of OC was planning to publish an article about the issue.
Pulido’s amended filings show he paid off the $2,250 debt to Stewart Sound, but still owes $12,500 to the other creditors.
Pulido did not return calls seeking comment.
Problems with lawfully required disclosures have dogged Pulido for years.
The mayor and his brother Luis Pulido, who serves as his assistant at another public agency, failed to disclose their real estate dealings with NAPA Orange County Auto Parts President Rupen James Akoubian on public statements of economic interest, known as Form 700s.
According to the county assessor’s office, the mayor and his family received a house for $230,000 less than fair market value from the contractor.
Later, the mayor would sell the house at a $197,000 profit, according to ownership deeds; and would vote twice to award contracts to the vendor, including a $1.35 million no-bid contract to be the city’s exclusive auto parts supplier.
As with campaign debts, Pulido only amended his disclosure forms to show his financial interest in the house after Voice of OC exposed the real estate deal. Former Riverside County District Attorney Grover Trask, who was tasked by the city to look into the issue, called Pulido’s machinations a “cover up.”
In years past, Pulido worked as a consultant for businessmen involved in a catering truck depot company. One of the main investors, Mohammad R. Hojati, stated in court filings that he paid the mayor to be his consultant, and that Pulido and the company’s landlord said they would be “working behind-the-scenes using Pulido’s formal position as mayor” so that “the business would be able to expedite securing permits.”
Pulido did publicly disclose consulting fees from the landowner for the depot, but didn’t disclose his consulting relationship with Hojati. Nonetheless, his votes on a split council meant that the depot would have city permission to open for business.
And Pulido’s former political adversary, Nativo Lopez, contended in a 2001 lawsuit that the mayor failed to disclose his business ties to Santa Ana developer Kris Kakkar on public statements of economic interest as required under state law.
During the court battle, Pulido offered Lopez’s immigrant rights organization Hermandad Mexicana Nacional $20,000 to withdraw the case, according to the Los Angeles Times.
As a result of the suit, the mayor was forced to amend his filings, the Times reported.