AC Transit Board Member Faces $60,000 Fine for Campaign Law Violations

AC Transit and other Bay Area public transportation services will run on Sunday schedules Christmas Day.

AC Transit buses at temporary Transbay Terminal in San Francisco. (Sara Bloomberg/KQED)

The state Fair Political Practices Commission is scheduled to decide next week on a proposed $60,000 fine against a member of the AC Transit board of directors who has apparently failed to file mandatory campaign finance reports for the past seven years.

The FPPC’s enforcement division is seeking the fine — the maximum $5,000 penalty for 12 counts of failing to file campaign statements — against AC Transit board member Mark Williams.

The FPPC complaint says that Williams and his campaign committee failed to respond to calls, emails and official notices presented by process servers for more than 21 months after the agency opened its enforcement effort in early 2016.

He first responded to the agency’s enforcement efforts in early December, the FPPC says. He subsequently missed a deadline to file what he described in an email to an FPPC lawyer as “my delinquent statements” and has not been heard from since, the agency complaint says.

Williams did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment on the FPPC’s proposed fine.

FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga said Monday the proposed amount of the fine in the Williams case, $60,000, “is a lot.” He explained that in the relatively rare case in which an officeholder or candidate doesn’t respond to agency inquiries, “the enforcement division will go to the high end to get their attention.”

And in fact, the enforcement division has already signaled its willingness to settle for less than the $60,000 fine it has asked commission members to approve next week. In an email last November, enforcement counsel Ruth Yang told Williams that once his delinquent statements are filed, “I can send you a stipulated agreement with a demand for a reduced penalty.”

Williams, a 2004 graduate of Oakland’s St. Elizabeth High School and former student at Laney College, was elected to the board in 2010 after serving a brief stint on AC Transit’s Accessibility Advisory Committee.

At 24, Williams was the youngest person ever elected to the board. He was re-elected in 2014, and his seat — representing AC Transit’s Ward 4, including parts of San Leandro, Castro Valley and Hayward — is up for election again this year.

The FPPC complaint and financial disclosure data on file with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters show that Williams has not filed semi-annual campaign statements required under California’s Political Reform Act since January 2011. The complaint notes that Williams’s election committee showed a balance of $6,295.65 after the 2010 campaign.

“Without any subsequent reporting, the public has not information regarding the disposition of those funds,” the document says. The document adds that by seeking re-election “without filing a single campaign statement … Williams hid his campaign activities from his opponent and the public.”

The AC Transit Ward 4 race in 2010 was not a high-profile, big-money affair. Williams ran against Gavin Wilgus, whom the East Bay Times described as a property manager working on a master’s degree in public administration at Cal State East Bay.

Wilgus’s campaign paperwork doesn’t turn up in Alameda County’s campaign finance database. Records for Williams show that he raised a total of $8,775 for the campaign, with $7,750 coming from unions. The Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents AC Transit’s drivers, donated $5,500 of that total.

Williams won 70 percent of the vote.

In 2014, Williams sought re-election against Murphy McCalley, a Castro Valley-based transportation and transit finance consultant. Records show McCalley raised about $16,500 for the race, include $6,500 he loaned the campaign himself.

While Williams didn’t file campaign statements for the 2014 race, a check of the labor organizations that backed him four years earlier shows he raised at least $4,700 from them. That total includes $2,000 from AFSCME Local 3916, $1,500 from a Teamsters campaign committee and $1,200 from the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Despite McCalley’s apparent fund-raising edge, Williams won in 2014 with 58 percent of the vote.

The seven-member AC Transit board oversees a bus system that operates local and transbay service in the 35-mile corridor from San Pablo to Fremont. The system carries about 171,000 riders each weekday and has an operating budget of $420 million.

In his most recent conflict of interest statement filed with AC Transit, Williams says he worked in 2016 as a political organizer for the Alameda Labor Council, a coalition of East Bay unions. He listed his gross 2016 salary in that position as between $1,000 and $10,000.

Williams also receives an $1,185 monthly stipend and benefits as a board member. According to Transparent California, his total compensation from AC Transit in 2015 was $22,593, including benefits.

AC Transit Board Member Faces $60,000 Fine for Campaign Law Violations 9 January,2018Dan Brekke


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area’s transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED’s comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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