SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - City Council Member, John Ashbaugh responds to the investigation by the San Luis Obispo City Attorney's Office who is evaluating a complaint signed by Council candidates Matthew Strzepek, Kevin Rice, Steve Barasch and Donald Hedrick against him.
The complaint alleges that Ashbaugh violated state and local campaign regulations. Specifically, Government Code Section 8314 for misuse of city email for campaign activities. Also written in the complaint were claims of violating Chapter 2.4 of the city's municipal code for exceeding campaign contribution limits and late filing for campaign disclosures.
The information came out Tuesday morning in email sent to Central Coast News by Mr. Rice. We did reached out to Mr. Ashbaugh at the time and he sent the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
Re: Response to complaint by campaign rivals Kevin Rice, et al.
SAN LUIS OBISPO – Councilman John B. Ashbaugh is responding with the following statement to the allegations in the complaint filed with the City Attorney's office by challenger Kevin Rice and his associates, as follows:
1) Yes, I did inadvertently send some emails from my official City email account; these emails are clearly a mistake that I have conceded the instant they were brought to my attention.
2) I have 5 email addresses that I use on a regular basis; I use five different devices to access a very high volume of emails; and I send 15-25 emails each day in order to meet the demands of three different jobs, my family, and my campaign.
3) I am fully aware that any use of the City's email account to discuss campaign matters is not appropriate. Those of us who have multiple non-City e-addresses must be particularly vigilant, but it is altogether too easy to begin composing (or replying to) an email using an incorrect account.
To summarize, the errant use of the City's email account was a mistake for which I have already taken responsibility. Should the City Attorney decide to pursue the complaint submitted by my opponent, then of course, I will do what's necessary to remedy this matter in a way that upholds the integrity of the City and of my office.
As to the remaining allegations in the complaint (items 2 and 3), these are very minor matters: Several weeks ago, I directed my campaign treasurer to refund to the donor (Supervisor Adam Hill) the value of two bottles of wine that he had brought to a campaign event, since he had already contributed a check for $200 (the maximum amount allowed under City campaign finance laws). As to the August 3 filing for my first Form 460, it was submitted only after lengthy conversations and email exchanges with our Acting City Clerk at the time, and it was accepted late without consequence.
Finally, it's discouraging that Kevin, whom I had once regarded as a friendly adversary, has once again decided to get down into the gutters and muddy up the waters of this election, which is so critical to the people of our community here in SLO. Quite frankly, we all need to rise above Mr. Rice's cynical approach to local government. I prefer to focus on issues important to the city, and I will continue to do so to the best of my ability.
In addition to the above statement, Mattew Strzepek issued the following statement on Tuesday regarding the complaint:
I was disappointed to discover that John Ashbaugh improperly used his taxpayer-funded city e-mail account to secure monies for his campaign, in addition to accepting contributions over the $200 limit. This is yet another example of John Ashbaugh placing politics before people and personal gain before public service. His blatant disregard of election law demonstrates that he is unfit to serve a second term on the city council.
Candidate for SLO City Council
Wednesday City Council Candidate Steve Barasch issued the following comment:
"It's an unfortunate situation, but campaign rules have to apply to all candidates, even incumbents."
Kevin Rice responded as well saying:
One hundred people are fined each day in San Luis Obispo for failing to place a coin in a parking meter. How can we reconcile that if council members are not accountable to their own ordinances? Mr. Ashbaugh voted in favor of the city's election ordinance three times. I'd like our elected representatives to be as honest and transparent as the laws they pass, and not just speak ceremonially.
Kevin Rice Candidate for Council Member, San Luis Obispo
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