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Water board member faces $30,000 in fines for campaign finance violations

February 3, 2011 | 11:59 am

A water board member elected to represent Bell, Commerce and other cities faces $30,000 in fines for campaign finance violations that include failing to report contributions from former Bell Mayor George Cole, a casino and several government contractors.

Arturo Chacon is a member of the Central Basin Municipal Water District’s board of directors and has admitted to 13 violations of state campaign finance rules, including failure to disclose payments to family members, discovered in an investigation by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

The commission, which is scheduled to vote on the fines Feb. 10, had to issue subpoenas for bank records to help it discover the source of tens of thousands of dollars that went into and out of Chacon’s campaign committee starting in 2006, when he won election to a water board seat vacated by Cole.

Chacon, who declined comment, signed an agreement with the commission executive director to pay the administrative fines for failing to report receiving political contributions totalling $37,000, and to report spending of $41,600. He also accepted three cash contributions totalling $4,350 that exceeded a $100 limit on non-check donations.

"One of the purposes of the [Political Reform] Act is to ensure that receipts and expenditures in election campaigns are fully and truthfully disclosed so that voters are fully informed and improper practices are inhibited," said an FPPC report on the case.

Chacon failed to properly disclose political contributions including $5,000 from California Commerce Casino, $1,500 from Cole,  and thousands more from engineering companies, public relations businesses and law firms that contract with the water district or cities in the area.

In deciding to levy steep fines, the FPPC enforcement officials said one factor "in aggravation'' was that "the contributions received and expenditures made included substantial payments to/from relatives and close associates" of Chacon, including his sister, Leticia Chacon, his brother, Hector Chacon and  his brother’s business, Quantum Management Services.

A Commerce resident, Chacon was elected in 2006 and reelected last year to the board representing a district that includes the cities of Bell, Commerce, Huntington Park, Maywood and Walnut Park, and unincorporated East Los Angeles.

-- Patrick McGreevy