by John Glidden | Oct. 15, 2020
VALLEJO –A committee opened to support passage of a Vallejo school bond has been fined $6,500 by the state’s election watchdog after two committee officials failed to disclose campaign information in a timely manner.
The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) issued the fine on Thursday against the Committee for Safe Vallejo Schools – Yes on Measure S, stating the committee violated state campaign laws in 2018 and 2019 for failure to file two pre-election campaign statements, one semiannual campaign statement, five 24-hour contribution reports, and for neglecting to include the necessary disclosures on two campaign advertisements.
The committee was formed in 2018 to support the Vallejo City Unified School District’s $194 million bond, which was approved by voters in November 2018.
Deborah Dickson served as the committee’s principal officer, while Michael Nichelini was the committee’s treasurer. Nichelini, who is a lieutenant with the Vallejo Police Department, also serves as president of the Vallejo Police Officers’ Association.
According to the FPPC, Nichelini, and Dickson failed to file pre-election campaign statements for the reporting periods between July 1 to Sept. 22, 2018, and Sept. 23 to Oct. 20, 2018, ahead of the Nov. 6, 2018 General Election.
In addition, the pair failed to file five 24-hour contribution reports, covering $25,000 in late contributions, the FPPC said. A late contribution aggregating of $1,000 or more must be reported within 24-hours. Records show late contributions made between August and October weren’t reported by the committee until Nov. 1, 2018.
The committee was also dinged for not providing a required “paid for by” notice on 100 campaign signs. The signs were not corrected prior to the November 2018 election.
A Facebook page created by the committee failed to display the proper disclosures prior to the election as well, the FPPC said.
Nichelini, Dickson, and the committee, were charged with three counts of violating the Political Reform Act. They were facing a $15,000 fine, however, it was lowered to $6,500 after the “Enforcement Division found no evidence that Respondents intended to conceal, deceive, or mislead the public. Further, Respondents do not have a prior history of violating the Act,” the FPPC said.
Penalties included $2,500 each for failing to file campaign forms in a timely manner, and $1,500 for failing to comply with disclosure requirements regarding political advertisements.