Orange County cities have become more transparent over the past few years about who’s financing their elected officials, making it easier for residents to see who’s backing their city council members.

Placentia is the latest city to move up in Voice of OC’s transparency rankings.

“I’m happy to see Placentia making strides to move up in the rankings. It means those who live in Placentia will be able to get the information they need to be informed voters,” said Jodi Balma, a local politics expert and political science professor at Fullerton College. 

In all municipalities, city council candidates are required by state law to complete two specific forms with financial information about their campaign and personal business interests.

Conflict of interest disclosures, known as Form 700s, display things like business, stock and property interests. 

Campaign finance disclosures, known as Form 460s, are used to show campaign donations and ensure that donors and those running for office are following the law on donation caps.

Balma emphasized the importance of having these forms easily accessible for residents.

“Oftentimes, our public administrators don’t have the bird’s eye view of what other cities are doing and where they might be falling behind,” Balma said. 

“It’s those of us who are trying to get candidate information and disclosure statements from multiple entities that really see the stark differences in not just transparency but also how easy it is to access the information you might not know you’re interested in,” she added. 

In 2020, 14 out of 34 cities in Orange County had these two forms readily available and easily accessible for their city council candidates on each city website, based on an investigation by Voice of OC in collaboration with Chapman University students.

In 2022, that number rose to 19 as more cities became transparent.

Now, Placentia is the latest city getting more transparent when disclosing both of these forms online.

On June 6, the city council voted unanimously to move forward to contract with a vendor to provide an updated electronic filing system for these forms. 

“This will improve public access and transparency because it’s a web-based system that the public can view in its entirety,” Placentia City Clerk Robert McKinnell said at that meeting.

In a previous investigation, Placentia was ranked as one of the least transparent cities in a ranking by Chapman students.

[Read: Who’s Financing Orange County’s Politicians?]

Cities received either a green, yellow, orange or red rating depending on how accessible these two forms were for residents to locate on each city website.

Cities received a green rating if both the forms were on the website and easy to locate.

Placentia was ranked orange, meaning the city candidates’ campaign contribution forms were on their website but they did not provide Form 700s or a link to the Fair Political Practices Commission’s website for the economic interest forms.

But now, the city is changing that.

Placentia is slated to contract with NetFile, a vendor approved by the California Secretary of State and utilized by at least a dozen other OC cities.

This system allows the public to find each candidate’s filings through an easy internet search by name.

The council is looking to make electronic filing mandatory — as opposed to filing physically on paper — which begins with filings after July 1.

This update would change Placentia’s rating to green, making it one of the most transparent cities for disclosing these two forms — along with the majority of the rest of the county.

The filing system will cost the city $6,800 each year, according to the agenda.

“It’s a step in the right direction and shows the power of local media in encouraging local government to be more transparent,” Balma said. 

Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.


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