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Last night, the city of San Diego’s Ethics Commission released an extensive list of alleged violations of law against school board President Luis Acle from his run for City Council a couple of years ago.

You might remember a long feature my former colleague Vladimir Kogan and I wrote about Acle. We had a whole section about his potential problems with the city’s campaign laws.

There are several problems with the way Acle managed his campaign and many alleged violations.

San Diego City Schools President Luis Acle

But the biggest deal, and the one that could end up costing him the most in potential fines, is the fact that he didn’t pay so many people that worked on his campaign. One of them had to sue to collect. Another got her money late and several never saw anything from the invoices they sent.

We found and talked to almost all of those people but now the Ethics Commission put down a solid number. Acle was late paying — or simply never paid — more than $14,500 to the people who helped run his campaign.

And the Ethics Commission could really come down on him for this. As the commission reminds us in its report:

According to (Municipal Code) section 27.2961, each and every calendar day any obligation remains partially or wholly unpaid after the time periods constitutes a separate violation.

Ouch. Most of these bills are well over 300 days late.

We tried on several occasions to ask Acle about the issue. He refused each time, saying once that he didn’t want to tell us anything that we would pass along to the people who said he owed them money.

Here’s what he told the Ethics Commission about why he hadn’t paid the consultants and workers on his campaign:

… he expressed his belief these vendors did not actually perform the invoiced services for the Committee; however, he was unable to provide any evidence of a good faith dispute or any evidence that he protested the unpaid bills.

And here’s the kicker: The Ethics Commission has fined many many local politicians and one-time candidates for office. The list is long. But you always read in the stipulations that commission writes that the person cooperated with the investigation and then settled it. Almost always, the errors are unintentional.

But the commission, in its report, says Acle didn’t cooperate and it comes close to alleging that he actively tried to hide some of the debts he had accrued during the campaign:

When asked why some of the accrued expenses were initially disclosed but later removed from campaign statements, Mr. Acle stated that he did not review the campaign statements because he relied on experts to prepare them.

One of those experts, his treasurer Mary Azevedo, says she didn’t get paid.

The reason we, as a community, don’t want politicians to owe people money who work on their campaign is simple. We don’t want our politicians to owe people money when they’re working on our affairs. And if a politician doesn’t pay his workers for their services, he has essentially forced them to donate to his campaign.

Acle hasn’t cooperated with the Ethics Commission and instead will appear at a hearing Jan. 31, where the commission will decide whether to proceed with the enforcement or not.

He similarly tried, a few years ago, to fight off the IRS’s claims that he owed tens of thousands in taxes on unreported income.

The agency found his arguments lacking in substance. If he’s to avoid a major fine from the city’s Ethics Commission, he’ll need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

SCOTT LEWIS

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