Assemblyman Chris Norby cleared of alleged campaign fund misuse
The state's ethics watchdog agency on Thursday dismissed allegations against Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton) that he misused campaign funds to pay for a motel stay in Orange County for personal benefit.
The state Fair Political Practices Commission overruled its chief of enforcement, who had argued that Norby lied when he claimed to have checked into a motel as part of a study of homeless issues.
"He listed the date of separation from his wife as the exact same date he checked into the motel," Gary Winuk, the commission’s chief of enforcement, told the commission, adding: "The respondent committed a very serious violation of the [Political Reform] Act."
However, after hearing some testimony in public, the commission went behind closed doors and a majority voted to uphold the conclusion of an administrative law judge who determined that the motel stay was properly paid for with campaign cash because it served a governmental purpose to help Norby study the homeless issue.
Norby was on the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2007 when he booked a room at the Fullerton A Inn during a time when he said he was having marital problems with his then-wife, whom he later divorced. Darryl R. Wold, an attorney for Norby, told the commission that the judge's ruling was made after extensive testimony and evidence was presented and was "very carefully, thoughtfully and thoroughly considered."
Commission Chairwoman Ann Ravel declined comment on the reasoning for the panel's decision and would not disclose the tally of the vote taken in the session behind closed doors.
During the open session, Commissioner Ronald Rotunda questioned whether Norby was forced to use the motel, noting that Norby had not been kicked out of his house by his then-wife and could have stayed at the home of an ex-wife. "As it turns out, he had other places to stay,'' Rotunda said,
— Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Photo: Assemblyman Chris Norby. Credit: Marc Martin / Los Angeles Times