SLO City Councilman John Ashbaugh pays $252 fine for violating campaign law

acornejo@thetribunenews.comOctober 29, 2012 

An investigation into a series of complaints regarding campaign violations lobbed against San Luis Obispo City Councilman John Ashbaugh has concluded with Ashbaugh paying a fine.

Ashbaugh paid $252 to the city for accepting a campaign contribution that exceeded the $200 donation cap set by city election regulations, according to a settlement agreement released by City Attorney Christine Dietrick Friday.

In addition, Dietrick said she would not file a civil complaint against Ashbaugh for allegations of using a city email address for campaign purposes or for filing a campaign statement three days late.

Council Candidate Kevin P. Rice filed the complaint Monday with the City Clerk's Office outlining several apparent violations by Ashbaugh of state and city election codes. The complaint alleged that Ashbaugh used his city-issued email address to campaign, filed a financial disclosure late and exceeded campaign contribution limits. 

The 14 emails were found after city staff conducted a search of more than 5,000 emails at Rice’s request. 

California law prohibits the use of public resources for campaigning. 

Dietrick said that she does not have the authority to file a civil action related to the emails because only cities of populations in excess of 750,000 can do so. San Luis Obispo has a population of less than 50,000.  A complaint must be filed with the state Attorney General’s Office.

City Council candidate Matthew Strzepek and mayoral hopefuls Steve Barasch and Donald Hedrick also signed the complaint. 

Dietrick also declined to seek civil fines from Ashbaugh for filing a financial disclosure form three days late, saying the City Clerk has the discretion to do so, not the city attorney.

The fine relates to two bottles of wine that county Supervisor Adam Hill gave to Ashbaugh in addition to a $200 monetary donation.

“In order to avoid further expenditure of public time and resources on this matter, the City Attorney proposed an agreement in lieu of filing a civil complaint, whereby Mr. Ashbaugh would agree to pay the maximum penalty that could be recovered by the city in civil action.”

The maximum value of the wine was found to be $84.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.


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