FPPC investigates allegation against Adrian Fine

State agency probes third City Council member

UPDATE: The Fair Political Practices Commission has closed its investigation into Palo Alto City Councilman Adrian Fine and gave him a warning. Read more here.


An anonymous complaint against Palo Alto City Councilman Adrian Fine has triggered an investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission into whether his campaign had failed to properly disclose his FPPC number on the envelope of a mailer he had sent out while campaigning last fall.

The commission, which enforces the Political Reform Act, is now investigating all three top vote-getters in last November's heated council election: Vice Mayor Liz Kniss, Greg Tanaka and Adrian Fine. But unlike with Kniss and Tanaka, Fine's alleged violation appears to be largely clerical in nature.

Unlike the six-page letter that the agency had sent to Kniss, the one to Fine is only two paragraphs long and cites one alleged violation: "unidentified advertisement or mailer." Specifically, he is alleged to have sent out the mailers without the FPPC ID on the envelope.

The mailer in question is the Oct. 12 letter Fine had sent to residents introducing himself and asking residents for support. The letter also includes a list of elected officials who had endorsed him and, at the bottom, a disclosure that it was paid by his campaign, as well as the FPPC identification number.

When asked about the investigation, Fine emphasized that the allegation in the anonymous complaint is an "administrative matter," not a campaign-finance issue. He characterized the complaint as people "sniping and mudslinging" after the election.

"I think there's absolutely a concerted effort to tar and feather," Fine told the Weekly. "It's clear they are targeting the newly elected council members."

Fine told the Weekly that all of his campaign's mailers were clearly identified as having been paid for by his campaign and all included the FPPC number. He said his team has responded to the FPPC to explain in detail all the steps his campaign has taken and to make sure that every regulation was followed.

Much like with its letters to Kniss and Tanaka, the FPPC's Enforcement Division informed Fine in its March 10 letter that it has initiated an investigation whether, based on the information it has received, he has "violated the Political Reform Act's campaign requirements and prohibitions."

"At this time, we have not made any determinations," the letter states. "We are simply providing you with this information and will be contacting you again to regarding this matter."

Related content:

After re-election, Kniss reaps developers cash

Palo Alto vice mayor says she didn't break campaign-finance law

Late cash from developers boosted Tanaka, Fine campaigns

Tanaka to return developer's contribution

Editorial: A necessary investigation

Behind the Headlines: FPPC investigations; bounty hunters in East Palo Alto


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30 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 23, 2017 at 10:31 am

It seems like someone didn't like Fine and researched minutia to bring something, anything against him. Why?

18 people like this
Posted by Peers Parent
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 23, 2017 at 10:40 am

Peers Parent is a registered user.

@Elizabeth -
That's exactly what it sounds like.

6 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2017 at 10:58 am

You can't say you could be in error, intentionally or not, but instead say that the newly elected council members are being gone after. Problem is that's not true Adrian - only 3 of 4 have. You 3 need to take responsibility and stop blaming others - bad leadership.

19 people like this
Posted by Don't spend my tax money in this way
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 23, 2017 at 11:05 am

This is just another waste of tax dollars demanded by a sore-loser. The issue is not having labeled the outside of an envelope correctly? Please...

I'd rather my dollars be spent on a study to figure out how to improve transportation, buy more park area, maintain our infrastructure, or how about creating opportunities for neighborhood interaction so people get along better!

Reminds me of all the money we wasted because Terry Shuchat didn't like the parking and improvements for Cal Ave. The area is vibrant, parking is fine and he has closed his business anyway. How much did that one cost us...

Let's all just be reasonable, fight for what matters and all work to move forward together.

20 people like this
Posted by Received Adrian Fine campaign piece
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2017 at 11:12 am

I was one of many who received Adrian Fine's campaign piece that did not contain the required disclaimer on the outside on the envelope, but did on the inside of the envelope. This is a clear violation of FPPC rules that requires a specific legend on the outside. See Web Link for details on the rules campaigns are required to follow.

Mr. Fine also lent his campaign money paid back by late campaign contributions from development interests. This step, while apparently legal, meant that the true source of his contributions were not disclosed until after the election. That's dark money. As of the last campaign reporting in January, his campaign still owed him $5000, and the donations for that repayment won't be reported until July. Thus, the late campaign contributions effectively went into Mr. Fine's wallet by repaying a debt to his campaign. Legal but sleazy.

18 people like this
Posted by Here's why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2017 at 11:14 am

. Why?
Because he lied, lied, lied to get votes. Just one example:
On the Planning Commission:
“Charging impact fees to housing projects is questionable ... it’s raising the cost of housing, right, overall across the market.” Web Link
On the campaign:
“Yes the city should increase development fees to fund affordable housing ... at the core, affordable housing requires subsidies from market-rate housing”

More examples if you ask.

14 people like this
Posted by strategic blunder
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 23, 2017 at 11:16 am

This is a weak allegation and it undermines the stronger allegations against Kniss and Tanaka. It was a strategic mistake by the complainers to bother with this weak sauce.

17 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 23, 2017 at 11:20 am

Re Cal Ave, we spent about $7,000,000 to 'revitalize" the street by putting in wider sidewalks and cutting down trees. The project lasted a ridiculously long time because they had to redo so many sections of the sidewalks that were shoddily constructed. The city responded to those complaints only after it made regional TV news.

Merchants suffered. They city finally offered the merchants a few hundred dollars to "compensate" them for loss of business. Existing retail was replaced by more offices whose workers needed more parking in spite of the Caltrans station at the end of Cal Ave.

Parking is NOT "fine" especially around lunch time, In fact, it's so bad the city is planning on building an expensive new parking garage there.

17 people like this
Posted by Bogus claims once again
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 23, 2017 at 11:21 am

Received-- what about the negative attack ads by Keller and Kuo? Those were legal but sleazy also.

Here's why-actually no. What he may have said at different times is not grounds for this investigation.

I think we know what is going on here. No need to say it but I think we all know.

13 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 23, 2017 at 11:22 am

This just feels so nasty to me. We're really spending time discussing a number on an envelope clearly sent by Mr. Fine during the campaign? I'm sure this rule is in place so that people don't send misleading mailers, but this was a mailer he used to introduce himself, clearly not hiding who it was coming from. A clerical mistake for sure, but come on. His makes "anonymous" look much worse then Mr. Fine.

12 people like this
Posted by Received Adrian Fine campaign piece
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2017 at 11:59 am

Keller and Kou did not hide anything from the voters. [Portion removed.] Campaign loans paid back by late campaign contributions ("dark money") from development interests appears to have been a coordinated strategy by those three pro-development Council members to win election.

15 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 23, 2017 at 12:01 pm

It's clear that PASZ/no growthers cannot accept that they lost the election. What's worse is they are trying to delegitimize the winners, which does a disservice to ALL of Palo Alto. It's clear from this article and the anonymous complaint that they are gasping at straws re Fine

13 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 23, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

trivial pursuit

10 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 23, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Agree with Fred Balin's comment. Maybe Palo Alto needs to hire a consultant to show candidates what to do and what not to do!

15 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Complaints to the FPPC are anonymous. This one could be a straw man.

4 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2017 at 1:10 pm

[Post removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2017 at 1:11 pm

@Online Name,

If a new parking structure is built, the city will not build it... YOU will.

That is how the redevelopment scam works. The developers build the offices and the stak-n-pack, and the taxpayers provide the infrastructure to support it.

15 people like this
Posted by Here's why
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2017 at 2:12 pm

The motivation of the complainant is irrelevant, what matters is the truth of the charge. If it is trivial it will be treated as such.
What is NOT trivial is Mr.Fine's duplicity in his campaign compared with his earlier positions.

Another example:
“That generation got a sweet deal, we’re getting a raw deal. Palo Alto residents who have been here since 1950 have told me “My generation screwed you.”

But on the campaign:
“I am running for City Council because I want to make sure that residents continue to have a great quality of life”

6 people like this
Posted by FPPC closes investigation
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 23, 2017 at 2:29 pm

The FPPC close the investigation with a warning: Web Link

Nice job smearing a Palo Altan who stepped up and volunteered time and effort for our city, PASZ.

Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 23, 2017 at 3:22 pm

@Don't spend my tax money in this way...
I agree. It's a 'tempest in a teapot'. It will go no where. It does raise the question, tho, if the winners conspired and collaborated to violate campaign rules to win seats on council. That can't and will never be proven and they won't resign. They are our duly elected city council members. Democrats will never accept Trump as their president...but I hope our PA voting citizens can accept our newly elected CC members. The real test is this...will they fulfill their promises that they campaigned on? That's what we need to be diligent about and watch out for. The best way to do it is to go back and watch all the video recorded interviews online by Palo Alto Weekly, with all the candidates. I've watched them several times. I hope Greer Stone and Don McDougall aren't discouraged by their loss, and run again. We need Stone's enthusiasm and right minded thinking and McDougall's sound and sage advice from his many years of life experiences in our town, and his personal commitment to improve it. Run again. The next cycle is coming up soon.

@Ahem...of course you're right. They build and we, the taxpayers, pay for the infrastructure, parking, schools, et al. Tain't fair but that's they way it works. If you have good ideas on how to change it, please bring them forward.

2 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Anne......your statement is analogous to the presidential election outcome and the losing party's inability to accept those results coupled with the actions they are taking to discredit the president. Sad state of affairs.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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