The tangled web of personal finances and local government

Update:

Although we would like to be a 24 hour news source, the Examiner (volunteer) Staff actually have jobs and lives outside of the blog (that may come as a surprise to some commenters).  Matthew Owen responded to our post this morning, with an attachment to the requirements for reporting investments and property owned.  Based on the highlighted sections, Mr. Owens believes he and Virginia Bass are not required to report how much their house is worth, since it is their personal residence.  Obviously, they must not be taking any reportable tax deductions on that property.  If that is true, then it might be possible they don’t have to report any information regarding the home they own in Eureka. 

One of the other areas that he highlighted was in regards to investments in mutual funds, credit unions, and other types of diversified fund accounts.  We don’t know what funds he and Virginia have invested in, and we’re not accountants so we can’t say for certain what funds they should be reporting.  Again, we just have to take Matthew and Virginia’s word that they are reporting what they are supposed to report. 

However, we should note that Rex Bohn reported investments in MFS Global Funds and Wells Fargo Advantage Fund.  Those appear to be diversified investment funds.  Rex felt that he should report those investments, even though Matthew’s logic is that they don’t need to be reported. 

That’s where we got the title for this post, “The Tangled Web of Personal Finance and Local Government”.  For us, it seems strange that anyone elected to office should feel that they need to hide their investments and properties they own.   In fact, the law doesn’t even require you to give addresses for your property, so privacy issues concerns seem a little hollow. 

People choose to enter elected or appointed office for many reasons.  However, entering into the governance, law making, and public service of local government means that you have chosen a higher calling.  With that higher calling, comes less privacy  then the average citizen.  If you don’t want the scrutiny, feel free to go into the private sector to stay under the radar.  Otherwise, recognize that giving more information than “required” might help quell any perceived conflicts of interest regarding your positions of power.  

 

Last week’s Eureka City Council meeting received very little attention in the local media void, which isn’t a surprise given that very few meetings are ever covered. We were hoping that some seasoned reporter or an astute new person trying to make a name would have caught on to the potentially huge scoop that was contained in the fine print of last week’s agenda.

$ in treeItem 7 was titled “Local Agency Biennial Conflict of Interest Code Resolution”. You see, certain government employees are required to disclose their investments, real property holdings, and business positions. For example, you can go online to see that Matthew Owen (husband to Virginia Bass) earns over $100,000 a year from Wells Fargo. However, strangely enough, Virginia didn’t report any real property interests (homes owned) or any investments. I guess we’re supposed to just take her word that Matthew, the banker, doesn’t invest any money and they don’t own their home.

On the other hand, Marian Brady truthfully disclosed that she has an investment in Chevron stock for less that $10,000. Rex Bohn reported owning two homes and having hundreds of thousands invested in stocks and other funds.

http://www.fppc.ca.gov/form700/2013/County/R_Bass_Virginia.pdf#search=%22eureka%22

http://www.fppc.ca.gov/form700/2013/City/R_Brady_Marian.pdf#search=%22eureka%22

http://www.fppc.ca.gov/form700/2013/County/R_Bohn_Rex.pdf#search=%22humboldt%22

We didn’t think that the local press would pay attention to Item 7. If local media was doing their job, they would have been asking tough questions for the past several years $ shovelabout why the reports from people like Frank Jager, Virginia Bass, Mike Newman, etc., which seem to indicate that they don’t own homes in Eureka or invest any of their money. The law requires reporting when “An official has an “interest in real property” when the official, or his or her spouse or dependent children have a direct or indirect equity, option, or leasehold interest of $2,000 or more in a parcel of property (e.g., ownership, mortgages, deeds of trusts, options to buy, or joint tenancies) located in, or within two miles of, the geographical jurisdiction of the official’s agency (e.g., within two miles of city boundaries for city officials).”

The press would also want to take a hard look at the filings by people like Dave Tyson, to see if he has directly benefited from the pipeline to Cutten because he might have owned property to be developed in Cutten. If we had an active press, they would have asked for and reported on these records already.

Well, its never too late to make a fresh start Humboldt Media. The law governing these disclosures makes it clear that anyone can access this public information. The law reads, “All statements of economic interests are available for public inspection during regular business hours. Persons wishing to examine statements may not be required to identify themselves…” That’s right, not just the media but local citizens can go in to your local City Hall and get copies of these records for a small fee, without identifying yourself!

$ in floorThe Eureka City Council approved a sweeping change to the City policy about disclosure by including a host of new city positions to be included. These disclosures should be closely looked at by the press and the public, so we can get a better idea of whether there are conflicts of interest. Some of the new positions are Assistant Fire Chief, Assistant to the Finance Director, City Clerk, Finance Director, Personnel Analyst, Police Captain, Police Chief and Zoo Manager.

With these new positions, and more, now is the time for some accountability in Eureka Government. These disclosures could shed some light on the financial interests of people like Eureka’s Finance Director or the Deputy City Attorney. The disclosures might also shed some light on who is and isn’t honest in their reporting.

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20 thoughts on “The tangled web of personal finances and local government

  1. Didn’t Rex Bohn and Dave Tyson own Redwood Fields out in Cutten?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Primary residences are not disclosed on Form 700s, you silly.

    Like

    • Thanks TE
      It’s a little more nuanced than that Hank has said but he’s essentially correct.
      http://www.fppc.ca.gov
      Generally, any personal residence occupied by an official or his or her family is not reportable if used exclusively as a personal residence. However, a residence for which a business deduction is claimed is reportable if the portion claimed as a tax deduction is valued at $2,000 or more.
      In addition, any residence for which an official receives rental income is reportable if it is located in the jurisdiction.
      When an official is required to report interests in real property, is a secondary residence reportable? It depends. First the residence must be located in the official’s jurisdiction. If the secondary residence is located in the official’s jurisdiction and rental income is received (including from a family member), the residence is reportable. However, if the residence is used exclusively for personal purposes and no rental income is received, it is not reportable. Although the secondary residence may not be reportable, it is still considered an economic interest for conflict of interest purposes. If a primary or secondary personal residence is required to be reported, is the street address required to be disclosed? No. The assessor’s parcel number may be listed instead of the street address.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. My, Rex did quite well working for Renner Petroleum – or did all his dough come from his days as a Soils Locator for Fox Farm Fertilizer Co?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Why should it matter where someone “earns” their money as long as it is a legitimate business. Rex has always worked and just because he may have done a little better than you why would you cast a shadow on him. sounds a little like the green monster of jealousy rearing it’s ugly head. Maybe you should try working instead of sitting on your ass on your computer! P.S. I’m retired

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lee Chappelle:

      “Why should it matter where someone “earns” their money as long as it is a legitimate business.”

      Lee! A pertinent observation from you! Life does hold it’s little surprises. Keep up the good work.

      Okay Mr. Chappelle; here’s an example why:

      Let us say a certain person owns stock in a certain oil company. Then let’s say that oil company wants to do things requiring that certain person’s approval.

      Is that person’s approval based on financial benefit? Or is even a PERCEIVED conflict of interest enough to be damaging to the process that person is a part of?

      Same with legitimate business interests. A certain legitimate business person owns a certain parcel of land. The government agency this person works with needs the land and will pay top dollar. How will that person’s vote be perceived?

      Or just take one step away… a certain legitimate business person has a friend who is another legitimate business person who needs something from that government. How will the certain legitimate business person’s actions be perceived?

      All three are examples of potential corruption Mr. Chappelle. Some of us folks tend to look down on that sort of thing.

      As for working… God knows I’ve worked. I can’t speak for the staff of the Tuluwat Examiner… I assume they have jobs and responsibilities. Having an opinion does not equal not having a legitimate livelihood (I apologize for the double negative).

      Even if the holder of that opinion does not agree with you Mr. Chappelle.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As a matter of openness and transparency why wouldn’t you disclose everything. It’s a public office after all.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Matthew Owen responded to this post, on Jon Chivs blog? He says he doesn’t need to disclose personal bank accounts (correct), mutual funds (wrong probably) and retirement assets (wrong probably). Here’s what I read from the FPPC:

    Q.
    All my investment decisions are made by my account manager and I have no input into where my funds are invested. Am I required to disclose the investments contained in this account?
    A.
    Yes, you must disclose on Schedules A-1 or A-2 any investments worth $2,000
    or more in a business entity located or doing business in your jurisdiction.
    Also check your conflict-of-interest code, if applicable, to determine if the investment is reportable.
    12
    Q.
    I have funds invested in a retirement account. Must I report the investments held in the retirement account?
    A.
    Investments held in a government defined-benefit pension program plan
    (i.e. CalPERS) are not reportable. However, assets held in some retirement accounts such as a defined contribution plan 401(k) must be disclosed if the account holds such items as common stock.
    You may have to contact your account manager for assistance in determining
    what assets are held in your account.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’d like to see the 700s from the current HumCo Planning Commission.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Ha Rex has sold many things. What about planning commissioners making decisions about property and being property owners too? Conflict??

    Liked by 3 people

    • Good catch Sparky. A lot of folks have forgotten, or didn’t know about Rex’s involvement in the dope trade back in the day. What was that bar??? The Meeting Place? Cocaine was king and Rex was taking his cut. Of course, many ‘legitimate’ business folks in Humboldt got their ‘seed’ money from frowned upon cash. Just a part of doing business. Isn’t that right Mr. MJ property banker, Lee Ulansey?

      Liked by 1 person

    • There are so many dodges and fake outs available…today an article appeared detailing the famous Koch Brothers tricky tax dodges in the Tricky Tax Dodging state of Luxemberg…aided by respected top accounting forms like Ernst and Winney etc.
      http://www.icij.org/project/luxembourg-leaks/new-leak-reveals-luxembourg-tax-deals-disney-koch-brothers-empire
      read that for some world class deception and tax dodging and wonder why the roads are funky, why bridges are falling down..they are literally today’s John Birch Society…what Patriots. What real Americans.

      Hiding one’s investments from the prying eyes of the media and the city of Eureka ethics commission…what?…how hard can that be?…..except for the snoopyness of maybe Ryan Burns and a couple of others…it should be no trouble for anybody with enough money for ‘investments’ and the money support for a candidacy to have an accountant or tax attorney give enough cover to avoid scrutiny….anybody supporting a candidate would be prudent to ask the same questions really.

      Interesting that this tiny meaningless report gets attention and shreiks from the righties.

      And to be accurate about something, the available parcel number gives you the address basically…not that anybody doesn’t probably already know this..

      (And Mola schooling Lee Chappelle on the myriad ways being an elected official gives you access to control over decisions and access to plans and decisions that may benefit you, your family, your seekrit business ‘partners’, and co-investors in hedge funds and the like, priceless…..haahahaha…geez….to say nothing of the expectations of the business and property owners that gave to your candidacy (transparently or dodging around the campaign limits, a growth industry) and now those contributors want something for it.
      (But campaign finance corruption, that truly is one of those evils where ‘both sides do it’…and boy howdy do they ever…which doesn’t excuse lack of basic disclosure either..)

      Interesting that this tiny meaningless disclosure report gets attention and shreiks and squawks from the righties. (cue the ‘jealous much?’ comments..oops, too late.)

      I wasn’t curious about much of this before, but if you got nuthin to hide baby…just turn around and drop em.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Rex told us at Swauger Station Day 2013 that he has a place in Costa Rica, too.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Rex’s bar was the Fourth Street Connection. Not sure if it was a pun.

    Like

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