|Former mayor acknowledges campaign finance violation
Rumors circulating around Barich’s illegal donation in Guardino’s 2006 campaign
Talk is circulating around the city that Cotati City Council member George Barich illegally donated a large sum of money to former mayor John Guardino’s council campaign in 2006.
Furthermore, a letter (dated Oct. 19) obtained by The Community Voice written to council member Pat Gilardi from Phil Maher, a leader in the no on recall campaign, states Guardino’s treasurer, Linell Hardy, who is running to replace Barich on the Nov. 17 ballot should he be recalled, knew about the $1,000 contribution and since it was larger than the $350 per person allowance under city campaign finance rules, split up the unrecorded cash donation amongst three parties.
“I was surprised when I received the letter,” said Gilardi. She said she waited about a week before turning it over to the city manager to ponder the ethical implications and make sure it wasn’t just a political trick.
“The rumor is a complete lie, part of last minute smear campaign by the Yes on Recall campaign,” said Barich in an e-mail to The Community Voice..The letter goes on, naming in detail the parties involved and the reasons for splitting the donation. It references conversations between Maher and Barich, according to Maher. One reason was members of Guardino’s campaign were “concerned that George’s reputation and unpopularity would be damaging to John’s standing with the liberal-left in town.”
Maher says George claims innocence in the incident because “The money was then disbursed into smaller increments and attributed to a series of smaller individual donations, but he wasn’t actually privy to anything beyond the initial delivery.”
Joan Simon, a leader of the effort to recall Barich, says the penalties for Barich in this case would be greater than Guardino’s, if the allegations turn out to be true.
He admitted to being a Guardino supporter, but not monetarily. “In 2006, I walked tirelessly going door to door to help get John Guardino elected to the Cotati City Council,” he said. “I find any attempt to link me to any campaign violations committed by others disturbing and an attempt to place blame where it clearly does not belong.”
Guardino resigned from the council (and his post as mayor) Oct. 23, citing his move to a property outside city limits. In a letter dated Oct. 26 to the city, Guardino reports a campaign violation. “On the evenining of Oct.4 a local resident informed me that another Cotati resident (with whom he associates) stated that he made a $1,000 cash contribution to my campaign in 2006. I had no recollection of such a contribution.”
This letter says Hardy had no record of the donation, even though every contribution over $99 had to be memorialized. It was revealed that a campaign worker had received the cash and not properly disclosed it. Guardino spoke with the city attorney on Oct. 15 and he advised reporting the violation to the Fair Political Practices Commission. According to city campaign code, the violation requires Guardino to remit the violation amount to the city’s General Fund. He sent a check with the Oct. 26 letter and it ends stating he had reported the violation to the FPPC.
Guardino and Hardy did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment. Maher’s letter seems to change his position from a die-hard Barich supporter. “I felt that it was my responsibility to get to the bottom of what happened,” it reads. “I don’t want John to be implicated in anything that would be damaging to his reputation or position However I believe that I have an obligation to the citizens of Cotati to demonstrate to them just who it is that’s supporting this recall.”
Some have said the letter could be a bit of political
trickery to draw attention away from Barich, or cast a negative light on one of his potential replacements. For now, no official statements have been made by Guardino or Hardy (save for Guardino’s letter to the city) on the matter. So, everything but the acknowledgement of a finance violation is hearsay at this point.
The letter was obtained by The Community Voice and used with permission of Pat Gilardi. Since she handed it over to the city manager, it becomes public record, but this letter was viewed and quoted before it was available through a Freedom of Information Act or public records request.
Barich seemed offended by being implicated in any wrongdoing. “I object to being implicated in anybody else’s corrupt political campaigns. I resent my name even being mentioned in your upcoming story unless I am accurately described as another victim of the shameless spin machine and rumor mill in Cotati.”