Did campaign contributions from a trash hauler create a conflict involving votes at the Fresno County Board of Supervisors?
Supervisor Steve Brandau may have accepted contributions a state law says he should not have.
The new law mainly applies to contributions from individuals and private businesses who have business before a public board. When the bill was crafted in 2022, labor contributions and labor contracts were exempt.
“(The bill) wouldn’t have been successful in this current Legislature,” without the union carve-outs, state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, the bill’s author, told GV Wire last year.
The law, SB 1439, took effect in January. Basically, it restricts elected members from voting on items when he or she receive $250 in contributions within the prior 12 months (or in this case since Jan. 1). It also restricts accepting contributions 12 months after a vote is made.
Brandau Voted to Amend a Mid Valley Disposal Contract in March
On March 28, Brandau and the board voted 5-0 to approve a change to a trash contract with Mid Valley Disposal and several other trash haulers.
Another contract with Mid Valley is on the board agenda for Tuesday.
Brandau accepted contributions from Mid Valley Disposal, LLC of $225 on June 28. He also accepted $225 contributions on the same date from members of the Kalpakoff family — Natalie Kalpakoff, mother of CEO Joe Kalpakoff and listed as “principal officer” of the company; and Tatiana Kalpakoff, sister of Joe.
Responding to GV Wire, Brandau says the vote was not for a new contract, but an amendment with trash haulers to comply with a new state organic waste law.
“SB1 439 was new at that time and we had scant information to go by. This law was poorly written and you still can’t get two attorneys to agree completely on the rules of SB 1439. Having received this question from GV Wire, I am reaching out to the FPPC for clarification on the March vote. By contrast, at Tuesday’s Board meeting, we are voting on a new contract and I will be recusing myself on that item,” Brandau told GV Wire.
No other supervisor accepted contributions from Mid Valley Disposal or the Kalpakoff family in 2023.
Did Accepting Contributions Violate Law?
The Fair Political Practices Commission, the state agency in charge of campaign contributions, may have to answer the question of whether the $250 limit is exceeded by contributions from family members or other officers of a company.
California Common Cause, which supported the law, says it does.
Last week, GV Wire reported a similar situation in which two Fresno city councilmembers accepted $250 from multiple members of the Kalpakoff family and/or Mid Valley Disposal.
Fresno City Council President Tyler Maxwell insists he is in compliance with the law. He is running for re-election in 2024.
Garry Bredefeld — who is running against Brandau for supervisor in 2024 — issued a statement after this story fist published.
“Every contribution I have received from local supporters is fully compliant with California law and has been vetted by multiple attorneys. But make no mistake — this law is another attempt by corrupt Sacramento politicians and special interests to impose their will and agenda to handpick local elected officials and silence the voice of local residents. It is no surprise that these bogus claims arise at a time when the Board of Supervisors are similarly trying to muzzle the voices of Fresno County residents in an attempt to preserve their Good Old Boy club,” Bredefeld said.
Bredefeld, and Luis Chavez — another Fresno city councilman running for supervisor in a separate district — are engaged in a lawsuit against the county over a law that limits transferring campaign account money. A trial in that case is scheduled to start Sept. 29.
Both Maxwell and Bredefeld voted on a contract with Mid Valley Disposal last week that was similar in nature to the March county vote.
The consequences of violating SB 1439 are unclear. Because it is a new law, penalties and complaints would be unprecedented.