A complaint filed Friday with the Fair Political Practices Commission against Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy alleges election law violations stemming from a recent poll authorized through her office.
The Oct. 24 poll was conducted by a polling firm hired by Sheedy to determine public opinion on potential financing plans for the proposed entertainment and sports complex.
According to the complaint filed by Sacramento resident Robert Langdon, Jr., Sheedy may have violated sections of the Political Reform Act of 1974 related to telephone advocacy and misuse of a public figure’s official position.
“(Langdon’s) allegations are completely without merit,” Joann Cummins, Sheedy’s district director, said Monday.
Langdon is a court liaison for the Sacramento county family court – and a longtime Kings fan, according to his mother, Mary Jo Langdon.
Langdon, 31, alleges in the complaint that, by paying for a telephonic “push poll” with campaign re-election funds and failing to advise the people called that the poll was paid for by her campaign, Sheedy violated the act.
According to the FPPC website, if the FPPC finds a violation, it may issue warning letters, impose fines up to $5,000 per violation or pursue civil penalties.
A “push poll" is a seemingly unbiased telephone survey conducted by a particular candidate or his or her supporters that spreads negative information about an opponent or an opposing issue.
“The poll was unfair,” Langdon said Monday. “(Sheedy) has always had issues with the (Sacramento Kings).”
Langdon said he filed the complaint because he felt the use of campaign funds was a violation of “fair practices” in elections.
The act states that when a political candidate expends campaign funds to pay for a telephone call, a disclosure is required that identifies who (or what organization) is paying for or authorizing the call.
The disclosure must specifically state that the call is "paid for" or "authorized" by the identified candidate, committee or organization.
Langdon’s FPPC complaint states that the text of Sheedy’s poll also fails to mention that it was paid for by her campaign.
By posting the results of the political poll on her official city website, Sheedy illegally used her “official position” in an attempt to foster her re-election campaign, violating the telephone advocacy and misuse of official position sections of the act, Langdon said in the complaint.
Those sections of the act state that public officials cannot use their position to influence decisions that are – or may come – before them in their official capacity by contacting any “member, officer, employee or consultant” of the agency that the official represents.
“Everybody pays for polls with campaign funds,” Cummins said. “Polling is a perfectly legitimate use of campaign funds.”
Cummins said Sheedy put the results of the poll on her official city webpage only after clearing it with the city attorney.
Sheedy and her staff will “take a look at the complaint,” Cummins said.
Langdon included news article from The Sacramento Bee in the complaint as evidence, however, according to Gary Winuk, FPPC Enforcement Division chief, a newspaper article is not considered evidence of a violation.
Tara Stock, FPPC spokeswoman, said Monday that after a complaint is received, FPPC Enforcement Division staff will notify the respondent – in this case Sheedy – within three days.
Sheedy will have 10 days to respond, and a determination will be made within 14 days whether the allegations in the complaint merit a full investigation.
“The length of any investigation will vary from case to case,” Stock said. “Timeframes depend on the specific allegations, the level of cooperation from all parties and whether witnesses need to be interviewed or subpoenas need to be issued.”
Sheedy was elected to the City Council for District 2 in 2000 and retained the council seat through the last two elections. She is up for re-election again in 2012.
Opponents vying for the seat have already come forward, including former Midtown Business Association executive director Rob Kerth and Kim Mack, 2008 local campaign organizer for President Barack Obama.
Local businessman Allen Wayne Warren has indicated interest in running for the District 2 council seat but has not made a formal announcement of candidacy.
Although the FPPC complaint challenges Sheedy’s re-election motives with the recent phone poll, Langdon is not a resident of District 2 and did not file the complaint as a constituent or as a potential opponent.
The FPPC was created by the Political Reform Act of 1974 as the enforcement agency for election laws.
Some areas of regulation that full under the FPPC authority include campaign financing and spending, financial conflicts of interest, lobbyist registration and reporting, mass mailings at public expense and gifts given to public officials.
Read the full FPPC complaint here.
Melissa Corker is a Staff Reporter with The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.