Reader asks Lassen News how to file a FPPC complaint

A reader asked Lassen News to provide information on how to file a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Complete information about how to file a complaint is available at fppc.ca.gov. According to the FPPC website, “Anyone who suspects a violation of the Act should file a sworn complaint with the Enforcement Division.”

This information comes from the FPPC website.

Complaint: If you suspect someone has violated the Political Reform Act, file a complaint with the FPPC’s Enforcement Division using the Electronic Complaint System. To file, provide the requested information on the complaint form, attach all documents you have containing evidence of the violations using the document uploader and click submit. You will receive an email confirming receipt of your complaint if you provide a return email address. If you file a sworn complaint, you will receive notifications regarding your complaint.

Attachments: If you are filing an anonymous complaint and are attaching documents, take a moment to delete any descriptive metadata (information about the author of a document or location a picture was taken that is stored within the document). If you are unfamiliar with this process, click this link for more information on how to remove it. Remove Metadata from Office Files, PDFs, and ImagesRemove Metadata From Mac Word. Enforcement staff does not redact metadata from documents and complaints and attachments are available for public inspection under the CA Public Records Act.

Referral: Filing officers can submit referrals to the Enforcement Division using the Electronic Complaint System. To refer a matter for prosecution by the Enforcement Division, provide the information requested below, attach the respondent’s most recent statement or report and a copy of your conflict of interest code (if applicable), and click submit. You will receive an email confirming receipt of the referral and notification when the FPPC takes action on the referral.

Disclaimer: The complaint form works best on Google Chrome and we suggest you use this browser to submit the complaint. If you are unable to see the complaint form on your screen, please try clearing cache and cookies from your browser. Close the browser after clearing, open a new window, and start again. We are working to resolve this issue.

If you have questions or problems submitting your complaint or referral, email complaint@fppc.ca.gov and we will assist you.

Violations of the act include

  • Financial conflicts of interest.
  • Campaign money laundering.
  • Over-the-limit gifts and contributions.
  • Improper use of campaign funds, including personal use.
  • Campaign mass mailings at public expense.
  • False, inadequate, or inaccurate reporting on statements of economic interests, campaign statements and reports.
  • Non-filing or late filing of such statements and reports.
  • Anonymous or cash contributions of $100 or more.

Violations do not include

  • False or misleading campaign materials.
  • Election fraud.
  • Misuse of public funds unrelated to campaign mass mailings.
  • Violations of the Elections Code, Penal Code or any laws other than the Political Reform Act.
  • Issues related to federal campaigns.
  • Open meeting law issues (Brown Act, Bagley-Keene).
  • Local ordinances.
  • Vandalism of campaign signs.
  • Running for or holding office.

Complaint Process
Within 14 days of receiving your sworn complaint, the Enforcement Division will inform you how it intends to proceed. Please be advised that unless the Chief of Enforcement deems otherwise, within three business days of receiving your sworn complaint, we will send a copy of it to the person(s) you allege violated the law.

A sworn complaint found to have merit will be assigned to staff in the Enforcement Division for a full investigation. The division may obtain additional documents, issue subpoenas, and interview witnesses, including the person alleged to have violated the Act.

If a person who filed a sworn complaint disagrees with the Enforcement Division’s intended action, other than needing additional time to consider, the person may in writing, within 20 calendar days of receipt of the response, a request for reconsideration to the Executive Director of the Commission. The Executive Director may deny the request, or based on good cause, direct the Enforcement Division Chief to take specified action consistent with the Act and its regulations.

Commission Action
Once the Enforcement Division has fully investigated a complaint, the case may be resolved in several ways. If there is insufficient evidence to prosecute, the division may close the case with a letter finding no action or an advisory letter. If the seriousness of the offense and public harm are low, a warning letter may be issued identifying a violation of the Act but concluding a monetary fine is not warranted.

If the case merits an administrative penalty, the Enforcement Division may ask the Commissioners to approve a settlement agreement in which the subject of the investigation agrees to pay a fine or to take other remedial action. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will be subject to a more formal administrative proceeding, including a probable cause conference and a hearing before an administrative law judge. In some cases, the FPPC may decide to prosecute a case by a filing a civil lawsuit in court.