Skip to comments.CA: Campaign funds audit may land Parra in trouble
Posted on 09/17/2003 10:17:04 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
Assemblywoman Nicole Parra revealed Tuesday she's having her 2002 campaign accounts audited after discovering about $13,000 in bills have gone unpaid.
If Parra has to shell out that amount of money, she may exceed campaign-finance limits and be fined by the Fair Political Practices Commission.
The unpaid expenses include $4,000 in payroll taxes and a $40 fee owed to the California Secretary of State's office, Parra said at a news conference in Bakersfield, flanked by some of her Sacramento and local staffers.
She said she doesn't know whether the problem stems from sloppy bookkeeping or intentional wrongdoing.
"I will pay every bill that my campaign owes," Parra pledged, adding later: "I'm as disappointed as the vendors are with me."
Also at Parra's side was a Bay area attorney she hired to help investigate, James Harrison.
He called the campaign books at issue "a bit of a mess."
Without elaborating, Parra said a campaign worker no longer works for her as a result of the discrepancy. She refused to identify the worker, other than to refer to her as a female.
But Parra's assistant campaign treasurer, who later worked as a receptionist and administrative assistant in her Sacramento office, Lindsay Owens, resigned a couple of weeks ago, said Parra's spokeswoman, Nicole Winger.
Winger said there were problems with and complaints about Owens' work and that Owens failed to turn over all campaign records to accountants when asked to -- something Parra referred to in more general terms at her news conference.
Contacted Tuesday night, Owens said she handed over all the financial documents she had and she told Parra's office that there were even more documents in storage. Owens said she doesn't have access to the documents.
But Nicole Parra's staff and her mother can get into the storage area, Owens said.
And Owens defended her years working for Parra.
"I wouldn't have been there for 21/2 years if my work performance was so poor," Owens said.
Parra complimented her work to other people all the time, Owens said.
Asked why she left the office, Owens said, "I was there 21/2 years and it was time to move on."
Parra said she first heard about a potential problem two weeks ago when she got an "embarrassing" call from a friend saying her campaign apparently hadn't paid a vendor's bill.
Parra said she hired accountants to audit her campaign books right after the election, but the former worker apparently had withheld some documents from them. The vendor billing problem brought that issue to light, she said.
The worker had assured her the auditors received all of the documents and that they were in order, Parra said.
Parra said she has not brought the issue to the attention of police or tax authorities because she's still determining what might have gone wrong.
Attorneys and auditors are contacting all of the people who sold her campaign services to see if they received payment, Parra said.
The financial experts also will be poring over bank statements and canceled checks to track all of the money that went in and out of her campaign, Parra said. She urged any unpaid vendors to come forward.
In a nail-biting race that took weeks after Election Day to resolve, Parra beat Republican Dean Gardner by just 266 votes last November to represent the 30th Assembly District.
The district includes Arvin, Lamont, part of east Bakersfield and much of northwestern Kern County. It also contains pieces of Tulare, Kings and Fresno counties.
Parra's campaign finances were a major issue in the race, with Gardner criticizing her for taking a lot of money from liberal lawmakers and interest groups outside the Central Valley.
Gardner and others also watched her spending closely because she'd agreed to spend less than $400,000 in the primary and less than $700,000 in the general election.
In return, she was allowed to include a statement in sample ballots urging voters to support her candidacy.
Campaign-finance reports filed earlier this year show Parra spent $395,223 in the primary and $693,182 in the general election.
Winger said it's unclear now whether Parra ended up exceeding campaign-spending limits.
Some of the contributions Parra received did not count toward her spending limit. Counting that money plus noncash help received, Parra's campaign actually cost more than $1.5 million, documents show.
Gardner did not accept the limits, but didn't come anywhere close to approaching them. He spent a little more than $316,000 in the primary and general election combined, reports show.
Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said it's too early to tell whether Republicans will make this billing fiasco a campaign issue next year, when Parra is expected to run for re-election.
As Assembly Republican leader-elect, it soon will be McCarthy's job to help find a formidable Republican to challenge Parra.
"I don't know enough about it," McCarthy said. He said he'd rather run a race "on the issues in the district and on how her views differ from the views of the district."
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