The heat is on
Measure A proponents suspected of campaign violation
John Gillander, former longtime local political operative and Republican strategist, doesn’t want to be associated in any way with the Measure A campaign. But his name is now linked to the initiative through a series of e-mails that opponents say shows a violation of campaign disclosure rules.
On Tuesday (May 31), exactly one week before Chico voters will head to the polls on the issue, a group from the anti-A camp stood in front of county Supervisor Larry Wahl’s office to hold a press conference to discuss an alleged violation by the Butte Taxpayer Association (BTA), the political-action committee supporting the initiative to move Chico’s City Council elections from November to June.
“It shows deliberate manipulating of this campaign,” said Jessica Allen, campaign director for Chico Conservation Voters (the No on Measure A campaign), in reference to certain e-mails of county employee Stephanie Taber that the group received through a state Public Records Act request.
The group chose Wahl’s Nord Avenue office as the venue for the press conference since Measure A is spearheaded by Taber, Wahl’s executive assistant, whom opponents of the initiative have accused of campaigning on the county’s dime. They point to this and other documentation—all obtained through PRA requests—showing Taber conducting official campaign business using her county e-mail address.
“She’s using county resources on a partisan political campaign,” chimed in Kelly Meagher, the principal financer of the No on A campaign.
Wahl denied that charge during a brief appearance outside his office.
For his part, based on the documents, Gillander makes it clear that he is not involved in Measure A. The only reason his name comes into play is because of a query he received from Erin Heringer, an employee of Chico businessman Thomas Dauterman, owner of Thomas Welding and Machine Inc. and the largest single donor to the Yes on A campaign.
Dauterman paid $31,500 for the services of the professional signature-gathering company that helped qualify the measure for the June 7 ballot. On May 4, Heringer, his administrative assistant, sent an e-mail message to Gillander asking him for his thoughts on certain campaign disclosures. In her message, she relates how back on April 28 she had sought assistance from the state Fair Political Practices Commission on two BTA disclosure reports: a supplemental independent-expenditure report and a major-donor independent-expenditure-committee campaign statement.
She goes on to explain how she filed the reports, which show the BTA with contributions of $49,990 and expenditures of the same amount (for campaign mailers, printing and postage), without having listed individual donors. (Dauterman’s wife, Carolyn, signed the statements.) Heringer’s message to Gillander includes a series of correspondence between her and an FPPC representative.
In one of them, Heringer refers to the Butte Taxpayer Association and “multiple people donating.” In another, dated four business days after Heringer filed the reports (the filing deadline was April 28), is a response from the FPPC’s Sandy Johnson: “Based upon these discussions, the [Political Reform Act] requires that the donor(s) be reported as contributors and Butte Taxpayers [sic] Association as an intermediary. Failure to do [so] may be considered a violation of 84302.”
Gillander issued a fairly terse response to Heringer.
“From what I see [from the e-mails], someone fucked up that one simple task. And now the Treasurer of BTA and the BTA is on the hook because they couldn’t just do that and nothing else.
“You created [a] big FPPC problem by calling them. It is going to be a very costly stupid mistake that didn’t have to happen. … I have no light to shed. … Please do not contact me …. I am not now nor have I ever been employed by the BTA, [Accountability for Chico’s Tomorrow] PAC or for any part of this campaign. I am not your campaign adviser or accountant.”
The uninterrupted chain of e-mails ends with Taber telling Heringer not to worry about the situation. “I’ve made some personal contacts,” Taber writes. “BTA does not have a problem and does not have to file any more documentation. Just if there are any other large contributions/expenses that need to be paid we should first talk about it … just so everybody knows the page we’re on.”
Taber’s home phone was busy for several hours Tuesday evening, and she did not return the CN&R’s work voicemail and e-mail messages seeking comment. Television’s Action News reported that evening that she had declined to comment.
Allen said her group is demanding accountability. To that end, it is in the process of filing a complaint with the FPPC.