Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson was hit with a state fine for illegally spending tens of thousand of dollars from his political campaign account on personal items over a period of more than five years, according to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission.
Peterson, who first took office in 2010 and won re-election in 2014, was fined $45,000 by the commission for violating the California Political Reform Act by spending $66,372 on personal expenses, according to the FPPC.
The money came from Peterson's political campaign coffers and it is a violation of state law to use it for anything other than campaign expenses.
"I am humbled and embarrassed by my mistakes, for which I take full responsibility and I apologize for my regrettable errors," Peterson said in a written statement Monday.
Peterson has admitted to the spending and reached an agreement with the FPPC's Enforcement Division on the fine.
He has paid back all the money he took from the campaign account and has already sent a check for the fine amount to the FPPC.
No other penalties were included in the agreement, which was posted to the FPPC website early Monday afternoon as an agenda item for the commission to consider at its Dec. 15 meeting in Sacramento.
The agreement summarizes Peterson's wrongdoing, noting that from January 2011 to October 2015, he used the campaign committee's debit card to pay for restaurant meals, gas, clothes, movie tickets, hotel rooms and cellphone bills.
His campaign spending statements failed to note the roughly 600 expenditures Peterson made for personal use, according to the FPPC.
Peterson, who served as his own campaign treasurer, also made cash withdraws from the committee's bank account and transferred money directly to his personal bank account.
It wasn't until the state Franchise Tax Board notified Peterson in October 2015 that his campaign account was selected for an audit that he reached out to the FPPC via his lawyer to admit to the spending.
Prior to that, he was already periodically paying back the money to the campaign account. After being notified of the audit, Peterson reimbursed the account for one last payment of $33,250 in December 2015.
"I considered the money a loan, kept track of those expenses at all times, made periodic repayments, and over time, repaid the committee in full," Peterson said.
The five-member commission board will have to approve the agreement before it's finalized. If it's rejected, Peterson could face a full hearing in front of the commission.
"When an official makes personal use of campaign funds, it erodes public confidence in the political process by blurring that line between lawful contributions and payments to public officials," the FPPC said in the agreement. "To his credit, upon learning of the ... audit, Peterson contacted the Enforcement Division, admitted his violations, and fully cooperated with the investigation."
-- Kiley Russell, Bay City News Service