South Lake Tahoe Councilmember Jason Collin cleared in FPPC investigation
Councilmember Jason Collin has been cleared of any wrongdoing in an investigation into his reporting of campaign contributions and gifts following the November 2016 City Council election.
In May 2017, South Lake Tahoe attorney and former councilmember Bruce Grego filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission against Collin.
Grego alleged that Collin neglected to report contributions to his lawsuit against Measure T, a measure passed by voters that prohibited the city from “approving” or “supporting” the U.S. 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project (Loop Road).
The lawsuit asserted that Measure T was an unlawful interference of the city’s authority. Ultimately a judge ruled in Collin’s favor, deeming the measure “unconstitutional,” “flawed” and “unenforceable.”
In his complaint to the FPPC, Grego argued that Collin used the lawsuit as part of his “election strategy,” therefore, upon taking office, he should have disclosed who helped fund the litigation.
It’s a claim that the FPPC ultimately disagreed with after an investigation into the matter.
“A challenge to a ballot measure, based on a claim it is unconstitutional or illegal, is not an attempt to influence voters and therefore not for a political purpose and not a [campaign] contribution under the [Political Reform] Act,” wrote Dave Bainbridge, assistant chief of the FPPC Enforcement Division, in a letter to Collin’s lawyer on Jan. 9.
The FPPC also concluded that the legal fees were not a gift.
“Mr. Collin brought the lawsuit at the urging of a number of other citizens, who provided money to pay legal fees, but sought not to be identified,” continued Bainbridge. “There’s no indication Mr. Collin stands to gain any personal benefit from the litigation, nor did he stand to suffer any personal loss if the complaint was not filed, or was ultimately unsuccessful.”
On Tuesday, Grego told the Tribune he felt the FPPC investigation was not thorough.
“During the course of making the complaint, they never contacted me to ask me for any information or to expand on any thought,” said Grego. “I disagree that Mr. Collin did not use the challenge he made to [Measure T] as a means to obtain office.”
Grego said that Collin has a “higher duty to be transparent and he’s not.”
“We don’t know today who his contributors are, yet he is making decision on City Council every other Tuesday, and we have no way as a public to evaluate whether he favors a decision one way or another because it affects his contributors,” continued Grego.
Collin did not respond to email and phone inquiries made by the Tribune to discuss the FPPC investigation.
Though the FPPC inquiry has concluded, Grego and fellow South Lake Tahoe resident Laurel Ames are still in the process of appealing the court’s ruling on Measure T.
In December 2017, Grego and Ames filed their opening arguments, which stated that the judgment “adversely affects the previous franchise powers of an unknown number of unnamed South Lake Tahoe citizens” and “tramples their constitutional powers.”
Collin’s attorney has not yet filed a response to these arguments with the court.