The California Fair Political Practices Commission has concluded its investigation of Tracy Mayor Pro Tem Veronica Vargas and has fined her $200 for failure to report a development company as a source on income on her statements of economic interest for 2015 and 2016.
While the FPPC fined Vargas for two violations of the Political Reform Act of 1974, which requires government officials to report details of their personal incomes every year, it also noted that she did not have a conflict of interest, and the development company she worked for was not doing business with the city.
The FPPC approved the enforcement decision at its April 15 meeting, where the “Matter of Veronica Vargas” was listed under Executive Staff Reports. The Stipulation, Decision and Order form describes two violations of Government Code 87207 in which she failed to report Trumark Homes LLC as a source of income in 2015 and 2016, with each violation drawing a $100 fine.
The form also includes a list of aspects to the resolution of the case with an “X” checking off each resolution. It notes that Vargas has amended all of the relevant statements of economic interest; she has not received a similar penalty at any time in the past 5 years; the undisclosed economic interest did not cause a conflict of interest violation under the Government Code; the income was not from a source that was regulated by or had business with the city of Tracy; and “the extent and gravity of the public harm in the aggregate is not more than minimal.” The FPPC found no intent to conceal the information.
The FPPC opened its investigation in 2017 after local attorney Steve Nicolaou filed a complaint with the commission. Through a public records request, he had obtained a copy of an email from Vargas to then-city manager Troy Brown noting that Trumark, her employer at the time, was negotiating with The Surland Companies to build homes in the Ellis development. She told Brown that she should recuse herself from any decisions regarding Trumark. Subsequent email messages showed that she continued to correspond with city staff regarding aspects of Trumark’s involvement with the Ellis project.
At the time Vargas told the Tracy Press that there was no conflict of interest, and she had recused herself from decisions regarding Trumark. She also acknowledged that she had failed to include Trumark on her financial disclosure forms from 2015 and 2016 and was cooperating with the FPPC in its investigation.
Tracy City Attorney Leticia Ramirez confirmed that Trumark did not have any projects before the Tracy City Council. Three vesting tentative subdivision maps that the council did approve for Ellis were all submitted by Surland, and Ramirez noted that Trumark did not end up being involved in the development.
At Tuesday night’s Tracy City Council meeting Vargas mentioned the investigation in response to a round of criticism of council members during the portion of the meeting devoted to public comment.
“In regard to the FPPC, which was a filing error which occurred five to six years back, the FPPC and myself have already closed the matter,” she said. “A fine was paid of $200 for my error in filing. I was not found guilty of anything.”
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