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District Attorney reaches agreement regarding misuse of campaign funds

District Attorney Mark Peterson. (CCC BAR ASSOCIATION / On File)
District Attorney Mark Peterson. (CCC BAR ASSOCIATION / On File)

MARTINEZ, Calif. – An apparent agreement has been reached between Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson and the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) over Peterson’s misuse of campaign funds.

According to the FPPC, which regulates campaign finance and governmental ethics, Peterson made approximately 600 personal expenditures from  his campaign fund between 2011 and 2015 – all illegal under the Political Reform Act.

The indiscretions were discovered after the Franchise Tax Board notified Peterson of an audit, leading him to disclose the expenditures.

The Enforcement Division of the FPPC will be presenting its agreement to the Commission for approval on Dec. 15.

Meanwhile, many are calling for Peterson’s resignation but, as of Tribune deadline, he has yet to offer it. He has, however, issued the following statement:

“I served as the treasurer of my own campaign committee from 2011 until 2015, after which I hired a professional paid treasurer. During that five-year period, I borrowed, in increments, a total of $66,373 from the Mark Peterson for District Attorney 2014 Committee. I used the funds to pay for day-to-day expenses, like meals, gas, cell phone bills, and other personal expenses. 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.

“In 2015, the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) contacted me about a routine audit. In response, I hired a professional treasurer and immediately contacted the Enforcement Division of the FPPC to make them aware of the expenditures and my plan to address my error. I cooperated fully and provided my contemporaneous records regarding the expenditures and reimbursements for their review, as well as all of the underlying documents.

“The FPPC Enforcement Division has noted: ‘To his credit, upon learning of the FTB audit Peterson contacted the Enforcement Division, admitted his violations and fully cooperated with the investigation.’

“It is with disappointment and regret that I acknowledge the mistakes I made regarding my campaign financing account. As a result of these mistakes, I have agreed to pay the Fair Political Practices Commission a $45,000 administrative fine.

“Although I have fully reimbursed the Committee for all of the personal expenditures, I make no excuses.

“I am humbled and embarrassed by my mistakes, for which I take full responsibility, and I apologize for my regrettable errors.”

Peterson has not yet disclosed why he may have misused the funds. His approximate salary in 2015, including total pay and benefits, equaled over $372,500.

Peterson was first elected to the DA’s Office in 2010. His current term will expire in 2018.

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