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Ex-member of governor's Cabinet pays $5,400 in ethics fines

Rosario Marin resigned as chief of the State and Consumer Services Agency in March as The Times reported she had been paid to give speeches for two pharmaceutical companies.

June 09, 2009|Michael Rothfeld

SACRAMENTO — A former member of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Cabinet who resigned in March has paid $5,400 in fines to a state watchdog agency for violating a ban on accepting speaking fees, while saying administration officials knew what she was doing and never advised her to stop.

Rosario Marin, who led the State and Consumer Services Agency for three years, admitted to three violations of the state's ethics law under a settlement with the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

The settlement is subject to approval by the five-member commission at its next meeting June 18. Marin could have been fined $15,000, but commission staff took into account her explanation that she got bad legal advice.

Marin resigned her $175,000-a-year post March 5 as The Times prepared to publish a story saying she had earned tens of thousands of dollars giving motivational speeches while working for Schwarzenegger. She was paid to speak by two pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., that had business before her agency within the same period.

Marin maintained, according to a commission summary of the settlement, "that she made her paid speechmaking activities known not only to key members of Governor Schwarzenegger's administration, but also to no fewer than four department and agency attorneys whose responsibilities included reviewing" her financial disclosure forms, which listed income from speeches.

"We did not know that she was getting paid to deliver speeches," Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger's spokesman, said.

State law bars officials from taking speaking fees except in certain situations, such as when the income is related to a speaker's "bona fide" business, trade or profession.

The fees were paid to a business she formed with her husband, Marin & Marin. But she was still in violation between 2006 and 2008 because speechmaking was the company's "predominant" activity, which the commission says is not permissible.

Commission staff also disclosed Monday that Lynwood Mayor Maria Santillan and City Councilman Ramon Rodriguez have agreed to pay fines for violating state campaign finance laws.

Santillan agreed to pay $20,000, signing papers admitting to nine counts of violating state campaign finance laws, while Rodriguez agreed to pay $15,000 for seven counts of failing to properly report campaign finances.

The two provided each other with mailers, signs and other campaign paraphernalia worth nearly $30,000 as part of a unified strategy during a 2005 election. They also failed to make timely campaign filings and maintain proper records.

Santillan was also charged with spending about $310 in campaign funds on clothing. She told investigators she thought the purchases were proper because she wore the clothes at campaign appearances.

"Personal use of campaign funds violates the trust of the contributors giving to that campaign, and is therefore a very serious violation," the agreement said.

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michael.rothfeld@latimes.com

Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.

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