Kellar Files Amended Financial Forms.
Individual transaction disclosure may hinge on established privilege.
Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar filed amended Statement of Economic Interest forms for 2002, 2003 and 2004 with the City Clerk today.
“It was a simple mistake. I believed I was filling these out properly, but apparently there is one section of the form that was incomplete,” Kellar said. “I was too busy and didn’t take the proper time to fill out the form.”
The forms, which come in a 20-page package accompanied by a 16-page instruction booklet, can be confusing and some sections are ambiguous. Other City Council members have found the forms difficult; in fact, City Clerk Sharon Dawson confirmed that she also received amended forms from Councilman TimBen Boydston, which were forwarded to the Fair Political Practices Commission.
While it is not termed an official “investigation,” the FPPC is weighing the merits of allegations that Kellar did not report his gross income on forms filed with the commission. A spokesman for the group said they are aware of the situation, but refused to comment further. But under law, they need to investigate any complaint brought to their attention.
“I am looking into this matter from my own perspective and will continue to do so to get this matter resolved,” Kellar said. “I have been in touch with the FPPC and they said I have a right to file a letter and state my position in the matter, which I am working on.”
According to the commission’s website, all complaints filed with the agency receive a response from the Executive Director within 14 days. The response may resolve the issue, request more time for research, refer the issue to another agency or dismiss it without merit.
Local activist Bruce McFarland, who is running for the State Senate seat currently held by George Runner, filed the complaint, alleging that Kellar did not report individual transactions in amounts exceeding $10,000 for either his own real estate dealings or those of his company, Kellar-Davis Realty.
According to the instructions on the Statement of Economic Interest, candidates must report individual sources of income in excess of $10,000, but exceptions may be made if the revelation would violate a legally recognized privilege under California law. The requirement is meant as a check and balance to prevent special interests from being able to pay a candidate for services without complete disclosure.
But in the case of realtors, where the commission on almost every transaction is over $10,000, it could mean disclosing every transaction. This could place realtors who run for office at an undue disadvantage as potential clients may not want every detail of their transactions as part of the public record.
“It becomes an issue for a realtor to seek public office,” said Mary Funk, President of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors. “I don’t believe that was the intent of the rule when it was first put into effect, when the average home in Santa Clarita didn’t warrant a commission over $10,000. Now, virtually any home sold in Santa Clarita would need to be reported. This is clearly an unfair position for Realtors seeking public office.”
Kellar contacted the California Association of Realtors, who is studying the policy, trying to determine if every commission needs to be reported.
“It’s very ambiguous,” he said. “We’re seeking guidance from both the Association of Realtors as well as the Fair Political Practices Commission.”
“It would cripple our business and violate the privacy rights of our clients if we have to disclose details of every transaction,” added Re/Max Realtor, Nancy Troxell, who is past President of the Santa Clarita Division of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors and current California State Director. “Clearly the rules were not established to have this kind of impact on one category of business. Many of my clients would choose not to use me, if I was in public office and that rule was in effect. It would discourage very capable realtors, like Bob Kellar, from running for public office who can contribute to our community.”
The Commission did not give a timeline on when they plan to issue a position.