Ceres City Councilman Ken Lane used part of his re-election campaign war chest to pay his wife $1,000 for services, according to his most recent campaign financial statement.
Public officials who run for office are required by state law to file regular statements reflecting campaign revenue and expenditures. The latest filing period covers Oct. 20 through Dec. 31. Lane's document shows that he collected $16,474 during 2013, of which $3,750 came during the latest filing period.
Lane reported giving wife Yvette Lane - named as his campaign treasurer - a $1,000 payment for "salary." Lane also paid Lisa Mantarro Moore $3,000 for campaign consultant work.
Paying relatives for campaign services is legal but the practice is not without controversy. Rarely, if ever, have candidates running for office in Ceres paid relatives to do work typically undertaken as volunteer work.
"Generally speaking - and it depends on how things are set up - it's not illegal but the ethics of it can be debated by whomever," said Jay Wierenga of the California Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento. "The regulations state that it is allowable and okay as long as it is legitimate and provable. Some people might take issue with it."
A 1996 legal opinion issued by FPPC general counsel Steven G. Churchwell concluded that it is permissible for a candidate to pay a spouse for "professional" services reasonably required by the committee.
"My council duties plus my job duties kept me pretty busy during the fall," wrote Lane in an email to the Courier in response to an explanation of the expenditure. "I paid Yvette $100/week for 10 weeks for her assistance in making calls, precinct walking, record keeping, assisting with event coordination, food prep for volunteers and clean up from all events and campaign work."
Lane also disclosed the use of $811 in campaign funds to throw an election eve party, including $686 in food purchased from La Cascada Mexican Restaurant and $125 to use River Oaks Golf Course. In the latest filing period, Lane's campaign also spent $624.35 to Pathways of Modesto, a consulting group and $129.90 to Save Mart for the office.
Lane also cut a $100 check from his campaign to the Ceres Lions Club, of which he is a member. It was listed as a civic donation.
During the Sept. 22 to Oct. 19 filing period, Lane's expenses included $200 paid to his son Kyle for erecting 4' x 8' signs around Ceres.
"I paid him a small amount for his several days of service for his work on the signs," explained Lane.
Lane also paid $280.25 to Austin Moore, son of Lisa Mantarro Moore, for sign supplies and assisting his son in putting up some of the signs.
Lane, who eked out a win in the three-person race on Nov. 5, ended the year with just $1,906.88 in campaign cash on hand. Linda Ryno pulled 35.5 percent of the vote (1,519). Lane received 1,297 votes and Hugo Molina received 1,217.
Donors to Lane's campaign included $2,000 from Food 4 Less; $500 each from California Real Estate Political Action Committee and Ceres contractor Bill Bhatti of Onkar Builders; $400 from Ceres Recycling Center; $251 from Inder Pahwa of Pinole; and a $99 donation from an anonymous donor. The $3,750 in donations for the Oct. 20-Dec. 31 period were added to $12,724 received in previous filing periods.
Ryno's latest campaign statement shows that she collected $4,449 for the 2013 calendar year, of which $250 came from the labor group IBEW Local #1245 between Oct. 20 and Dec. 31. Ryno's campaign paid $1,000 to cover candidate filing and ballot fees. She also made a $1,006.07 donation to the Northern California Laborers Scholarship Foundation. The Ryno campaign fund had a zero balance as of Jan. 12.
Molina's campaign reported collecting $4,938 during 2013, of which $3,159 came in during the last stretch of the campaign. Molina, a member of the Ceres Planning Commission, spent $2,275 for the filing period and ended up with a balance of $1,653. Molina received $500 from Central Cal Investments, LLC of Modesto, $300 from Nirmal Singh of Turlock, $250 from the California Association of Realtors PAC, $100 from Inder Pahwa of Ceres, and $100 from Sandro Luna of south Modesto.
Molina paid himself back $493 for a $1,000 personal loan he made to his campaign. He also spent $1,368 in signs, $377 on newspaper advertising, $300 for a robo-calling effort and $157 in food for a fundraiser. The smallest expenditure was for a $73 list of voters for a precinct walking effort.