Accepting, hiding marijuana money: Maggard accused of campaign finance violation

Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard dismisses claims of a campaign finance violation, calling it "dirty politics." (KBAK/KBFX photo)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) – Taking a campaign contribution from a pot shop and covering it up: That's what Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard is accused of doing.

This could be considered a disclosure violation by some, but what it really comes down to is who do you believe? Maggard, his accusers, or the paper trail?

"It doesn't matter what he says, it doesn't matter what he does, I will not be silenced, I will not be sidelined, I will not stop representing my constituents," said Maggard specifically referencing TJ Esposito, a local marijuana activist who assists in the operation of a political action committee that has run ads against Maggard.

Esposito now claims Maggard is in violation of state campaign finance and disclosure laws.

"If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it's probably a duck," said Esposito.

Here's the controversy:

  • Maggard reported a campaign contribution from someone named Jennifer Romandia on Dec. 14, 2017.
  • The donation was for $250.
  • Maggard listed Romandia's occupation as "Housewife."
  • However, Romandia is actually the office manager of a marijuana dispensary, The Crop, in Maggard's district.
  • The Crop is still open and operating.

When asked if he knew about Romandia's connection to the marijuana dispensary, Maggard said, "I am now. I don't know that I was then."

The supervisor said he knew of Romandia at that time, but only as someone who was active in the Oildale community.

Maggard claimed he had no idea at the time he received the contribution from Romandia that she and a man with her same last name operated The Crop.

However, three months before the donation, back in September 2017, Romandia is listed as the contact person and office manager of the dispensary in Kern County's Environmental Impact Report on marijuana dispensaries.

This is the EIR that was used, considered and referenced by supervisors as they made their decision on whether to ban commercial cannabis activities in Kern County after California voters passed Proposition 64, which legalized all forms of marijuana statewide.

"She's listed in the EIR, in the county's report," said Esposito. "He says himself he reads every report."

Maggard, however, stands firm that nothing was done intentionally.

"If she was listed as a housewife on one of my campaign reports, if that was incorrect, then I apologize," he said. "It wasn't an intentional misstatement, and if it needs to be corrected, we'll correct it."

All efforts to contact Romandia about the campaign donation were unsuccessful.

According to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, it is the duty of the candidate to accurately report the occupation and employer of every person who makes a contribution to their campaign. The CFPPC said if such information can not be verified by the candidate, the money needs to be returned.

Not returning such donations and/or listing inaccurate occupations and employers can be considered campaign finance violations. Intent is surely a factor in that consideration.

As Maggard said, he is willing to fix the inaccuracy, but he also added campaign contributions on their own do not create a conflict of interests.

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