Speaking of Measure B’s gift prohibitions we previously predicted,
“[B]ecause Measure B ensnares thousands of ordinary citizens, it will inevitably be selectively enforced ... against the City’s political opponents.”
The selective enforcement phase has begun!
No, the city hasn’t yet charged anyone with violating these gift prohibitions…
…but they HAVE failed to enforce these rules on the Oxnard City Council members who accepted gifts in violation of the law that the Oxnard City Council itself put onto the ballot and urged voters to adopt.
The Measure B sales pitch sure sounded noble, and Oxnard voters adopted the council’s proposal into law, but among the many flaws we pointed out at the time were that the gift prohibition was written too broadly, treated ordinary residents like paid lobbyists, lacked a minimum dollar threshold, and it would create violations that many residents wouldn’t think were improper.
Before Measure B, state law allowed elected officials to accept some gifts, but any gift over $50 (or multiple gifts totaling $50 from a single source) had to be reported on the annual Form 700s.
However, with the adoption of Measure B, Oxnard’s city ordinance now prohibits city elected officials from accepting any gift of any amount from several categories of potential givers, including any entity which contracts with the city.
Here’s an old video (from the 2022 campaign for Measure C’s term limits) providing evidence that at least a majority (maybe all?) of the Oxnard City Council members in 2021 accepted ILLEGAL gifts (from the Dallas Cowboys and from Amazon), both of which contract with the City.
Then we learned that the gifts in 2021 weren’t the only ones…
This online photo suggests that ALL SEVEN members of the council (Perello, Teran, now-Supervisor Lopez, Basua, Zaragoza, Madrigal, and MacDonald) may have accepted similar gifts (shirts, hats) related to the 2022 Dallas Cowboys training camp.
Did council members apologize for setting a bad example and violating their own ethics standards? Nope! Some feigned righteous indignation that we had dared to point it out.
- Councilman Bert Perello answered, “I do not apologize for my action,” and argued he was doing it for you! (see below)
- A few days later, Councilman Bert Perello during a council meeting threatened to retaliate against us for pointing out what he had done. (see below)
- Councilman Gabe Teran’s response included a dismissive, “whatever” and then argued he had actually acted ethically because he reported it on Form 700. (see below)
- Mayor Zaragoza said there was an additional gift not reported on Form 700. (see below)
- Councilwoman Gabriela Basua mocked the story as being part of “silly season” right before an election.
Again, it was the Oxnard City Council that proposed that ANY gift from a city-contracting entity for ANY amount – even a penny! – was so unethical that it ought to be banned. They set the dollar limit for themselves at ZERO.
Reporting a prohibited gift on Form 700 does NOT make it compliant with Measure B’s rules, it just serves as evidence that the council member broke the law.
Some council members falsely claimed that their actions were allowed because they later re-gifted the items to someone else. They’re wrong!
Re-gifting the item still violates this plain language they placed on the ballot (emphasis added):
“For purposes of this Article, a ‘gift is defined as any payment or other benefit that confers a personal benefit for which an elected City official or member of the Planning Commission does not provide payment or services of equal or greater value. […] An elected City official or member of the Planning Commission has received or accepted a gift when he or she has actual possession of the gift or when he or she takes any action exercising direction or control over the gift, including discarding the gift or turning it over to another person. […] A ‘gift’ does not include items that are returned (unused) to the donor, for which the official reimburses the donor within 30 days of receipt, or that are donated unused to a non-profit, tax-exempt (501(c)(3)) organization in which the official or immediate family member does not hold a position, or to a government agency within 30 days of receipt without claiming a deduction for tax purposes.”
Even if a council member used the item only once for a photo-op and/or immediately gave it away (to a friend, relative, or even a stranger), by the definition the council approved, it is still a prohibited gift.
It is the City Attorney’s task to enforce the measure that his own office wrote for the City Council to place on the ballot. There is no indication that he has taken any action whatsoever to address the gifts given to his bosses.
Regardless of the City’s campaign claims that Measure B would “prevent” such gifts, it didn’t. The Oxnard City Council and upper management never really intended for Measure B’s gift prohibitions to apply to themselves. They only wanted a weapon that they hoped to selectively use against their political opponents.
P.S. Below are the details of council member reactions we’ve found so far, which were summarized above:
Councilman Bert Perello:
1) Verbatim email sent by Councilmember Bert Perello to a resident:
On Sun Oct 23 15:31:45 PDT 2022 "Perello, Bert" wrote (underline added):
“Mr [resident name]
Check my required State of California 700 filing of gifts received you will find a Dallas Cowboys shirt one year ago and this year another shirt . The shirts are expected to be worn by Oxnard City Council representatives during the opening day celebrations for the Cowboys which are televised and promoted by by various entities and our City to capitalize on our costal climate and location with opportunities for visitors and business alike to benefit the residents with additional local businesses revenue .
I wear the shirt for the event and promptly give it to some fan in attendance potential saving them a few dollars , and declaring it as legally required in the 700 forms . I do not apologize for my action in representing this City in such a manner .
Thank you for including me in this email and providing an opportunity to respond on my own behalf .
Bert E Perello
Oxnard City Council”
OUR NOTE: If Mr. Perello were representing the City, he could have worn a shirt with a City logo. Wearing a Cowboys shirt represents the Cowboys. And certainly the voters who enacted Measure B didn’t “expect” him to accept the gift.
2) During the November 1, 2022 council meeting (see time stamp 01:54:15), Councilman Bert Perello threatened retaliation against us, saying,
“To be called a crook for that, I’d like to have somebody to look inside of themselves because if we want to start looking up and turning rocks, I have friends that are very eager to do help me do that.”
OUR NOTE: He seemed to miss the point that it was the law HE put on the ballot – and the ballot argument he signed – which called him a “crook,” yet he projected blame onto us. Kill the messenger!
Verbatim statements made by Councilmember Gabe Teran at the 10/29/22 candidate forum in Riverpark (emphasis added):
Question: Describe an ethical dilemma you’ve faced and how you resolved it.
Answer from Gabe Teran: “So you may have seen a political ad that stated that I had accepted a gift from the Dallas Cowboys. First off, I want to say that the Dallas Cowboys – the contract we have with them is to provide a co-sponsored event that happens annually, in case you all weren’t aware, and part of that is everybody gets these shirts. They say, ‘Hey, you need to wear these shirts when you go to the event.’
And the ethical part of that is, okay, we got it, whatever.
Then when I had to file my Form 700, which is a disclosure of any gifts, I asked, ‘Hey, how much was that shirt worth?’ They said, ‘Oh, it wasn’t $50 or more.’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know about that.’ So I looked it up. The reason that it was $59.99 is ‘cause I did my due diligence, found it after an hour on the Cowboys website. You can only buy it at their store. It was discontinued. I said, ‘Oh, it’s $59.99.’ So I declared it, that, oh, I received this thing, which I ended up donating anyways, ‘cause, I’m sorry, but I’m not a Cowboys fan, and I told the city, ‘Hey, FYI, that shirt was $59.99. Anyone else who received it and kept it, they need to declare it as well.’ And the only reason Mr. Starr was able to find it and put it in his ad was because I did that due diligence to make sure that it was not under $50, and, you know, that – that’s why it was there because I wanted to do the right thing.”
OUR NOTE: The “right thing” was to not accept the gift, as it violates Measure B’s gift ban. It was not clear from Mr. Teran’s response who “they” are, and who he thinks is the “everybody” that gets these shirts. The general public does NOT get free shirts. Perhaps he is saying that “everybody” on the council received them, even the ones who did not report the gift on a Form 700? Hmmm…
Mayor John Zaragoza
We have not seen a public response from Mayor John Zaragoza, but here is a general characterization of his take when a resident asked him about this during a phone call:
- Mr. Zaragoza was not on the city council when Measure B was put on the ballot
- At some point Amazon also gave him another t-shirt, too, and he gave that to a relative
OUR NOTE: The prohibition applies to all current city council members, whether or not they were on the council at the time Measure B was written and placed on the ballot.
During the November 1, 2022 council meeting (see timestamp 01:49:49), Councilwoman Gabriela Basua vaguely dismissed the evidence of her illegal gift as just being part of “silly season” right before an election and tried to categorize it as being equivalent to some other person on the Internet who falsely alleged that Ms. Basua still lived with her mother.
OUR NOTE: We provided the evidence of her illegal gift from her own disclosure filings and with a photo of her wearing one of the gifts. It is not some unsubstantiated theory. If Measure B’s rules are so silly, why did she vote to place such a silly ballot measure on the ballot for voters to enact?