FPPC, prison health care czar at odds over financial disclosure

Months of negotiations between the state’s campaign-finance enforcer and the prison health care receivership are making headway and may head off a threatened lawsuit against correctional officials over conflict-of-interest rules.

The Fair Political Practices Commission scheduled a closed-door meeting Thursday to consider filing the suit against the federally appointed receiver, J. Clark Kelso, and state prisons director Matthew Cate. The agenda item – last of the 35 items on the FPPC’s crowded docket – was the only public notification that discussions were under way.

But during the past few days, the parties have come closer to accord. Documentation has been provided and the possibility of a court showdown appears to be receding.

At issue is the FPPC’s contention that the prison health care receiver and the Corrections Department do not have sufficient financial disclosure rules in place. The financial disclosure reports, called Statements of Economic Interest, are required of state and local elected officials, ranking bureaucrats, members of state-created commissions, boards and some advisory panels, and others. The reports are filed with the FPPC and are available for public viewing on request.

The documents, filed annually, describe in broad categories a person’s income, assets, investments and the like. A primary residence is exempt.

The receiver and the Corrections Department already have conflict-of-interest codes, but the FPPC believes wants to sure the codes are enforced and that those who should file the disclosure reports are actually doing it.

“We never had a problem with disclosure,” said Luis Patino, a spokesperson for the receivership. “The questions concerned a couple of committees, one of which never met and the other disbanded.”

The language on the agenda says the potential lawsuit seeks “requiring the adoption or amendment of a conflict-of-interest code to include officers, employees, members of advisory boards, and other appropriate individuals operating under the authority of the Receivership created by the federal district court to oversee the provision of health care at California prisons.”

FPPC Executive Director Roman Porter and Patino declined to discuss specifics of the negotiations with Kelso and Cate.

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