Off-Beat: Rory roars back
Welcome back to the political arena, Rory Ramirez.
Ramirez, the former Yuba City mayor, is in the race for Sutter County supervisor in District 1.
It's a pretty crowded field, but Ramirez stands out. He may be the only one who's been in hot water with the Fair Political Practices Commission.
It was way back in 2008, during the epic battle over the Hillcrest Water System and whether it would connect to Yuba City's water system.
Ramirez sent a letter to Hillcrest users that included postcards giving people the option to withdraw their protests.
A citizens group — Murky Water (a pretty witty name by Yuba City standards) — dared to file a complaint with the FPPC, alleging Ramirez violated state law by sending the letter, using public funds, in an "attempt to influence the vote on the Proposition 218 tax issue."
The group also said a flier distributed by the city violated the same rules because it included a note from Ramirez, along with his photo and signature.
Back in 2008, when asked by this newspaper about the controversy, Ramirez said he "categorically denies" that any violation occurred.
"I've made it known in public I'm not running for re-election, so I don't believe I have violated any code related to that letter or that flier that (Murky Waters is) referencing," Ramirez told this newspaper.
The FPPC works in mysterious ways. It took about a year for the commission to act.
Result? A $6,000 fine for Yuba City for twice breaking the state election code for those mailers.
Ramirez's comment when the fine was announced? Silence.
City Manager Steve Jepsen took charge, minimizing the whole thing.
"In order to expedite this, we find it's probably more expedient and way less costly to stipulate to the position of the FPPC," Jepsen said.
But the kicker in all this was what the City Council did in September 2009.
It voted to indemnify the former mayor, meaning he would not have to pay any FPPC fine.
"The stipulation does not require Ramirez to pay anything," Jepsen told this paper. "It requires the city to pay the fine, and we're doing that."
According to the FPPC documents, Jepsen wrote the Hillcrest letter. Jepsen said, in retrospect, it would have been better to have had him sign the letter rather than Ramirez.
"I wrote the letter, and we felt it would have more emphasis coming from the mayor," Jepsen said.
So hang in there, Rory. Welcome back to the political wars. Your opponents won't have to do any more opposition research.