Fines proposed in Turlock robocall case

A state agency has proposed $32,500 in fines for former City Councilman Kurt Vander Weide and his campaign consultant for their roles in questionable “robocalls” placed during the 2008 campaign.

The case, which involves automated calls to voters aimed at incumbent Mary Jackson, also could result in a $4,000 fine for current Councilwoman Amy Bublak and her husband and campaign treasurer, Milton Richards. They have agreed to fines for failing to report campaign spending, according to documents released Monday by the Fair Political Practices Commission, but Bublak stipulates that she was not behind the calls.

The commission staff said the calls, one of which suggested that Jackson supported same-sex marriage, were designed to benefit Vander Weide and Bublak. Jackson and Bublak eventually won, and Vander Weide lost his seat.

The commission will consider the fines at its July 17 meeting in Sacramento. The documents involving Vander Weide and Bublak were released with the commission’s agenda.

The staff said Vander Weide did not ask for a hearing on the accusations. He and Bublak could not be reached for comment Monday.

The staff said Vander Weide and consultant Carl Fogliani violated a requirement that the sources of robocalls be identified to voters. The failure “deprives the public of important information before an election about who is supporting/opposing which candidates,” said a document from Gary Winuk, chief of enforcement for the commission. It said Vander Weide also failed to report the robocall spending.

The $32,500 in proposed fines includes $20,000 to be paid by Vander Weide, his campaign committee and Fogliani for not identifying robocall sources. The other $12,500 is proposed for Vander Weide and his committee for campaign finance record-keeping violations.

A staff report in November suggested that Bublak helped plan the calls, but this accusation is not in the proposed settlement. “The reason for this is that Ms. Bublak maintains that she instructed her campaign consultant, Carl Fogliani, not to do robocalls,” Winuk wrote.

The council election happened at the same time voters were considering Proposition 8, which aimed to ban gay marriage in California. The measure was supported by nearly 68 percent of Stanislaus County voters.

In the robocall related to this issue, the caller said, “Turlock must support a rich, vibrant community that includes everyone and regardless of whom they choose to love. If you agree, I urge you to vote Mary Jackson for Turlock City Council.”