ACORN’s behavior was `highly inappropriate’ but not criminal in California, Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown says
California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said in a report Thursday that the community organizing group ACORN engaged in "highly inappropriate behavior" in the state but violated no criminal law.
Brown's office launched an investigation of ACORN's California operations at the request of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last September after the release of videos that appeared to show ACORN employees advising people about how to engage in prostitution and other other illegal activity.
Started in Arkansas in 1970, ACORN expanded around the nation with community offices working on such issues as affordable housing and voter registration. ACORN had 13 offices in California and 40,000 members.
"ACORN in California was disorganized and very poorly managed," Brown's report said. "It failed to recruit, train and monitor its employees to ensure compliance with California law."
Brown said some ACORN employees made suggestions about how to avoid criminal activity when approached by James O'Keefe III, a political filmmaker, and Hannah Giles, a Florida college student, who posed as a pimp and prostitute in meetings with ACORN workers from July 24 to Aug. 14, 2009. But the "most offensive" statements by ACORN workers occurred outside California, the report said.
In fact, one ACORN worker in San Diego even called the police about the couple, and another worker in San Bernardino treated the meeting as a joke, the report said.
"The evidence illustrates that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality," Brown said. "Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor."
Brown's office gave O'Keefe and Giles immunity from a state privacy law that prevents unauthorized taping in exchange for a complete set of their videos, the report said. It noted that persons who were taped without their knowledge could sue in civil court.
The report said ACORN probably violated state civil laws by disposing thousands of pages containing confidential information about employees, members and other individuals, failing to file a 2007 state tax return and engaging in four instances of possible voter registration fraud in San Diego.
ACORN also was unable to document how it used charitable funds raised for the victims of Southern California wildfires, the report said. But the probe "determined that ACORN spent more than it likely raised for the fire victims and therefore further action into this issue is not a wise use of the state's resources," the report said.
--Maura Dolan in San Francisco
Photo: L.A. Times file