The California Fair Political Practices Commission announced Friday that Joe Canciamilla, the former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder who resigned last week, is facing a $150,000 fine for illegally using campaign funds.
According to the 13-page finding, the spending was uncovered in an audit where it says Canciamilla used campaign funds for personal use, campaign reporting omissions/errors, and failure to timely file a pre-election campaign statement – in violation of the Political Reform Act.
Canciamilla resigned on Oct. 31 saying he thought it was a good time to retire and is leaving the County in good hands.
“The office is running well and I believe, for a number of reasons that now is a good time to move on. It has been a real honor to lead this department and I know that I am leaving it in good hands. After being in public service for most of my life I am looking forward to what comes next,” said Canciamilla in an email.
According to the Summary of Facts:
Between May 27, 2011 to June 15, 2015, it says Caciamilla commingled campaign funds with personal funds and made personal use of campaign funds totaling approximately $130,529.
- Vacation in Asia
- Unrefunded airfare for Canciamilla and his spouse for a cancelled trip to London and Washington DC
- Personal credit Card charges for remodeling of a home that he owned in Hawaii.
The report also stated nearly all of this activity was concealed on Canciamilla’s campaign filings through a mixture of non-reporting, over-statement of available cash on hand, and other reporting violations.
Between Oct. 1, 2013 and Oct. 19, 2015, Canciamilla partially reimbursed his clerk-recorder committee in the amount of $43,121.
The report says in May 2019, the Enforcement Division discovered that in connection with this audit, Canciamilla presented false information to FTB, including altered bank records. This (along with a pattern of non-reporting on campaign statements, over-statement of available cash on hand, other campaign reporting violations, and a convoluted series of bank transactions)served to fraudulently conceal additional violations by Canciamilla and his committees, including older violations that otherwise would fall outside the statute of limitations
The counts Include:
Count 1 & 2:
In 2011, on or about May 27and June 2, Canciamilla made two disbursements for personal purposes in the amounts of $9,300 and $4,400, respectively, from his judge committee’s checking account.
On or about June 27, 2011, Canciamilla opened a money market account for his judge committee. That same day, he: (a) transferred $70,000 from the committee’s checking account to a personal checking account; (b) transferred $65,000 from the personal checking account to a second personal account; (c) transferred $65,000 from a third personal account into the second personal account; and (d) transferred $70,000 from this second personal account to the newly opened money market account for his judge committee. In this way, Canciamilla and his judge committee commingled campaign funds with personal funds—in violation of Section 8430
In 2011, on and between July 7 and September 30, Canciamilla made six disbursements—totaling $69,500—from his Judge committee’s money market account to a personal checking account. The disbursements, which were for personal purposes, ranged in amounts from$1,000 to $35,000. Virtually all of these funds were used for personal purposes that were unrelated to any political, legislative, or governmental purpose of the committee. In this way, Canciamilla committed six violations of Sections 89510, subdivision (b),and 89512.
On or about March 11, 2014, the Contra Costa County Auditor-Controller’s office issued a refund of filing fees in the amount of $5,310 for Canciamilla’s Clerk/Recorder committee(for over-payment of filing fees). However, instead of depositing the funds into a committee account, Canciamilla deposited the funds into a personal account—on or about April 15, 2014. In this way, Canciamilla used the funds for personal purposes—in violation of Sections89510, subdivision (b), and 89512.
In 2014, on and between June 13 and December 3, Canciamilla made five disbursements of campaign funds from his Clerk/Recorder committee, totaling approximately $36,119. Investigation by the Enforcement Division revealed that these were personal travel expenses for a vacation in Asia—which were not directly related to any political, legislative, or governmental purpose of the committee. In this way, Canciamilla committed five violations of Sections 89510, subdivision (b); 89512; and 89513, subdivision (a).
On or about June 15, 2015, Canciamilla made a disbursement of campaign funds from his Clerk/Recorder committee in the amount of $5,900. This was a personal travel expense for a trip to London and Washington, DC for Canciamilla and his spouse that was canceled. The expenditure was unrelated to any political, legislative, or governmental purpose of the committee. In this way, Canciamilla violated Sections 89510, subdivision (b); 89512; and 89513, subdivision (a).
For reporting periods covering January 1, 2011 through October 1, 2012, Canciamilla’s judge committee filed five semi-annual campaign statements (including one amended campaign statement). During this time, Canciamilla failed to report the expenditures totaling approximately $83,200, which are described in Counts 1, 2, and 4 through 9 above. Investigation by the Enforcement Division revealed that the committee’s balance of cash on hand was over-stated on each campaign filing, which served to conceal the unreported expenditures. In a similar fashion, when the judge committee terminated and transferred all of its assets to the new Clerk/Recorder committee, the final campaign filing for the judge committee over-stated the amount reportedly transferred to the new committee. In this way, Canciamilla and his judge committee committed five violations of Section 84211, subdivisions (b), (e), (i), and (k)
For reporting periods covering October 3, 2012 through June 30, 2019, Canciamilla’s Clerk/Recorder committee filed more than 30 semi-annual and pre-election campaign statements (including various amendments). Investigation by the Enforcement Division revealed that each campaign filing over-stated the balance of the Clerk/Recorder committee’s cash on hand (as received from the judge committee), which served to conceal the violations described in Counts 1, 2, and 4 through 9.Also, when the Contra Costa County Auditor-Controller’s office issued a refund of filing fees (totaling $5,310) for Canciamilla’s Clerk/Recorder committee—as described in Count 10—the funds were deposited by Canciamilla into a personal account, but the committee’s campaign statement for that period falsely reported that the funds were received by the committee. This resulted in a further over-statement of the balance of the committee’s cash on hand for that reporting period and future periods. Additionally, regarding the personal travel expenses noted above (for the Asia vacation and for the unrefunded airfare for the trip to London and Washington, DC), these expenses were not reported on initial campaign statements. This resulted in a further over-statement of the balance of the committee’s cash on hand. Later, these expenditures were reported through a series of amendments, but they were described, falsely, as legitimate expenses of the committee. On and between October 1, 2013 and October 19, 2015, Canciamilla partially reimbursed his Clerk/Recorder committee in the approximate amount of $43,121. The committee was required to report receipt of these funds on its campaign filings, but receipt of the reimbursements was not reported. In this way, Canciamilla and his Clerk/Recorder committee committed nine violations of Section 84211, subdivisions (c), (e), (f), and (l).
The FPPC compared the penalty to that of former District Attorney Mark Peterson saying what Canciamilla spent was double to that of Peterson. Peterson also self-reported violation upon learning he was being investigated, whereas Canciamilla presented false information which they say concealed many of the violations described.
Taking all of the circumstances into consideration, 30 counts are recommended—at the maximum penalty of $5,000 per count—for a total penalty in the amount of $150,000.
- In the Matter of Joe Canciamilla for Contra Costa County Clerk/Recorder 2014/2018, Friends of Joe Canciamilla for Judge 2012/2014, and Joseph Canciamilla; FPPC No. 17/146.Staff: Neal Bucknell, Senior Commission Counsel and Bob Perna, Program Specialist II. The Respondents were represented by the Law Office of Andreas Rockas and the Law Offices of Wayne Ordos. This matter arose from an audit performed by the Franchise Tax Board’s Political Reform Audit Program. Joseph Canciamilla is the former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder and Registrar of Voters, as well as a former candidate for Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge. Joe Canciamilla for Contra Costa County Clerk/Recorder 2014/2018 and Joe Canciamilla for Judge 2012/2014 are his candidate-controlled committees. In 2011, 2014, and 2015, Canciamilla used campaign funds for personal purposes which were unrelated to a political, legislative, or governmental purpose, in violation of Government Code Sections 89510, subdivision (b), 89512, and 89513, subdivision (a) (15 counts). From 2011 through 2019, this activity was concealed on campaign statements by other reporting violations including non-reporting and the over-statement of available cash on hand, in violation of Government Code Section 84211 (14 counts). Also, in 2011 Canciamilla and his judge committee commingled campaign funds with personal funds, in violation of Government Code Section 84307 (1 count). Total Proposed Penalty: $150,000 – $75,000 (Canciamilla personally) and $75,000 (Canciamilla and his committees).