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Santa Monica Councilmember Tony Vazquez Has Reported Earning No Income Since His 2012 Election
By Jorge Casuso
November 1, 2017 -- Since rejoining the Santa Monica City Council in 2012, Tony Vazquez has reported no earnings on his yearly Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) despite giving sworn testimony that he has been working as a paid consultant for the past decade.
Vazquez, who was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016 after having served on the council in the early 1990s, filed income statements with the City Clerk for the years 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
But he indicated he had no "reportable income," which includes earnings, stock holdings and gifts, including travel, according to a review of the statements by The Lookout.
The filings contradict sworn statements Vazquez, who heads his own political consulting business, Vazquez and Associates, gave during a deposition last November taken by the plaintiffs in a voting rights case against the City.
Vazquez, who is a candidate for the Board of Equalization in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, which administers and collects state tax fees, told the Lookout that he believed only income that could pose a conflict of interest needed to be reported.
"It was always my understanding that you had to list (earnings) if there was only a conflict," Vazquez said, adding that his consulting company does not do business in Santa Monica.
"Most of my business is in the South Bay," Vazquez said.
Vazquez said he will file an amended income statement that reflects his earnings.
Santa Monica City Clerk Denise Anderson-Warren said it is the candidate's responsibility to understand the income statement form.
"If they want advice or if they have questions, we refer everyone to the FPPC (California Fair Political Practices Commission)," she said.
Anderson-Warren said some candidates err on the side of caution and provide more information than is required.
Jay Wierenga, FPPC's communications director, said it is incumbent on the filer to fill out the income statements as "truthfully and honestly as possible."
"They sign them under oath," Wierenga told the Lookout.
"The whole purpose is to let the public keep an eye to see if there is a conflict," he said.
The penalties for violating California's political reform act can range from a warning to as mach as $5,000 per violation, Wierenga said.
"The higher up the ladder, the stricter the filing requirements," he said.
According to FPPC guidelines, an official who owns a business that receives income of $10,000 or more from a client must disclose the client’s name.
In his deposition, Vazquez said that most of his earnings over the past decade have come from TELACU.
Asked by the plaintiffs' attorney Kevin Shenkman how much TELACU has paid him, Vazquez responded, "right now I'm getting 3,000 a month from them," according to the transcript.
Vazquez was then questioned about his total earnings from TELACU.
Q. What would you say, estimate, you've made from TELACU during the eight- or nine-year period beginning in 2007, 2008 when you started with them and ending today, total amount?
A. Oh, shoot. I don't know. Because I went and -- at -- think at the very beginning I was only getting like a thousand. This was like back in '07.
Q. A thousand a month?
Q. And it's now up to 3,000 a month?
Q. Okay. Has it ever been more than 3,000 a month?
A. Yeah. I think the most -- yeah. I think in the peak, which was about two years ago, it got up to 8,000.
Q. 8,000 a month?
A. For -- that lasted maybe about ten months.
Vazquez said he is paid by clients for "assisting them with facilitating meetings" with government entities.
None of those meetings, he said, have been with Santa Monica officials or with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, where his wife Maria Leon-Vazquez serves as a board member.
TELACU was the developer of the New Hope Apartments, a 25-unit building for those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS at 1637 Appian Way, but the project was built in 1999, 13 years before Vazquez rejoined the City Council and before he became a consultant with the non-profit developer.
TELACU was at the center of a year-long investigation of the Centinela Valley Unified School District in the South Bay by the Daily Breeze, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2015 for local reporting for their coverage.
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