Since their 2016 campaigns, current Alhambra Mayor Jeff Maloney and Councilman David Mejia have been criticized for each accepting a $5,000 campaign donation from a developer who at the time was seeking approval for a large commercial project in the City.
By Sean McMorris
Community members appealed the city council appointed planning commission’s 2017 approval of the project, citing an erroneous traffic report and other potential zoning and environmental violations. All 5 city councilmembers voted to move the project forward anyway. Councilmembers Maloney (not mayor at the time) and Mejia were asked to recuse themselves because of the $5,000 donations from the project applicant, but did not.
The City was later sued over the development, resulting in the eventual revocation of entitlements for the project. In the meantime, the developer, Arman Gabay, was indicted on federal bribery charges. Shortly thereafter, Mayor Maloney publically stated that he would be donating the $5,000 his campaign received from Gabay to charity. Councilman Mejia would not do the same, stating that he had already spent the money. It now appears that Mayor Maloney has spent the money as well—likely for legal fees.
Yet to donate the full $5,000
Maloney’s recent campaign finance report, which was due on July 31, 2018, reveals that he has yet to donate the full $5,000 he promised. From Jan. 2018 through June 2018, Maloney has donated a total of $950 to charity: $150 to the Alhambra Police Foundation and $750 to the Asian Pacific Islanders Forward Movement. During the same reporting period, Maloney received a sole donation of $1,000 from his mother on May 29, 2018—13 days after news broke of the Gabay scandal and 8 days after he committed to donating the $5,000 in question (see Maloney 460 Jan-June 2018). The $1,000 donation is the only donation Maloney has received since he was elected in 2016. He is not up for re-election until 2020.
Mayor Maloney ended his 2016 campaign with just under $10,000 left in his campaign account (see Maloney 460 Jan-June 2017). He currently has just over $2,200 in his account, including the late $1,000 his mother donated to his campaign last quarter.
The gift that keeps on giving
So what happened to all that money that Mayor Maloney could have put towards his promised $5,000 donation? Some of it went to support the campaigns of various state and local politicians, but the vast majority of it, $5,000, was spent to retain legal services from a boutique law firm in Los Angeles that specializes in election law, campaign finance reporting, governmental ethics/conflicts of interest, audits and investigations, major donors, and litigation (see Maloney 460 July-Dec. 2017).
Unfortunately for the Mayor, a retainer for legal services does not constitute a donation. It looks like Arman Gabay’s $5,000 donation to Maloney’s campaign is the gift that keeps on giving, or harming, depending on who you ask.
Mayor Maloney declined to comment on his donation commitment and his retention of campaign legal services for this article.
[This article has been updated for more clarifications, August 13, 2018 1:29 pm]
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