A judge has ruled that Santa Ana Mayor Miguel A. Pulido does not have to pay a $1,000 civil fine for failing to disclose his financial interests just outside the city's borders.
The penalty was dropped because Pulido's mistake was considered an oversight and was subsequently corrected after it was brought to his attention, said Pulido's attorney, Charles McClung.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert D. Monarch had assessed the fine in September but reversed his decision this month after Pulido's attorneys asked that his order be vacated.
The fine stemmed from a lawsuit filed three years ago by Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, an immigrants rights organization headed by Nativo V. Lopez, a former school board member who has sparred with Pulido for decades. In 2003, Pulido supported the recall of Lopez from the Santa Ana Unified School District's board of education.
Lopez's lawsuit alleged that the mayor had not fully declared his business interests on economic disclosure forms that California public officials file annually to the state Fair Political Practices Commission.
In 1999, Pulido teamed with developer Kris Kakkar to build housing for seniors and a hotel a quarter-mile outside the city, which, by state law, should have been publicly disclosed.
But that year, Pulido's economic-interest statement listed only his muffler shop and a Santa Ana rental property. He amended his declaration in August 2000 to reflect the two additional addresses without further explanation.
After the protracted legal battle, Monarch found that Pulido acted without "prejudice to the public," and that no one was hurt by his omission. He nonetheless ordered that Pulido pay $500 to Hermandad and $500 to the state. Previously, the judge also had ordered Hermandad to pay $700 to Pulido because the organization failed to produce documents in connection with the lawsuit.
The judge's decision to drop the fine showed that "the mayor should not have to pay for the mistake. He wasn't trying to cover anything up," McClung said.
Neither Lopez nor his attorney Chris Nicoll returned calls seeking comment.
McClung said the latest decision also showed how a political ploy to harm the mayor failed.
"All [Hermandad] cared about was embarrassing the mayor. They spent the time and the energy and they didn't embarrass the mayor," said McClung.
During the litigation, both sides had acknowledged, the mayor's legal team was rebuffed when it offered Hermandad $20,000 to drop the lawsuit.