City releases new batch of campaign statements

Councilman Peter Arellano

What happens to campaign cash in a non-election year? That depends on who’s holding it.

While some Gilroy City Council members handled thousands of dollars in campaign donations and expenses in 2011, others stood pat, raising and spending nary a dime, according to recently updated city campaign records. The Dispatch perused all seven sitting Council members’ campaign records – the newest made available on the City of Gilroy’s website Jan. 31 – with the next election looming nine months away.

Mayor Al Pinheiro, who has said he won’t seek re-election this November, spent more than $3,300 from his mayoral campaign fund last year, including $763 on an Apple iPad that he bought at Best Buy in Gilroy, which he says is used for city matters and meetings and another $700 related to travel, lodging and meals.

The travel expenses came from a December trip to Washington D.C. that Pinheiro ultimately had to cancel because his mother fell ill, he said. In regards to the iPad, Pinheiro said the city researched California Fair Political Practices Commission law and determined he’d have three options once his term runs out: He’ll either have to turn the iPad over to the city, donate it to a charity or buy it back on his way out of office. He said he’s not yet sure what he’ll do.

“I’ll make up my mind at the time,” he said.

Pinheiro, who claimed zero donations in 2011, according to city records, also reimbursed himself $100 from his campaign fund for a donation he made to the Si Se Puede Learning Center on behalf of his committee.

“At the time, I didn’t have the check (from his committee), and I had cash on me, so I gave it to them,” Pinheiro said.

He made multiple payments to the City of Gilroy totaling $746 as reimbursements for several items, such as dinner following last year’s goal-setting session and ink pens bearing the city’s logo.

Pinheiro also made donations through his mayoral committee, including $500 to Gilroy Gardens and $250 to the United Way.

Councilman Dion Bracco, who at last check remains in Gilroy’s mayoral race against Councilman Perry Woodward, reported no donations or expenditures in the last six months.

Over the first half of 2011, however, Bracco received $999 in donations from several groups including Gilroy Construction, Inc., KB Home and R&M Transport, Inc.

The titles “Dion Bracco for City Council 2010” and “Friends of Dion Bracco for Mayor 2012” appear separately on his January through June statements. City Clerk Shawna Freels said Bracco moved roughly $488 from his council fun to his mayoral fund during that period.

Bracco paid roughly $1,200 to Salinas-based Paramount Communications to kickstart an online newsletter to promote his candidacy. The newsletter, titled “Gilroy News from Councilman Dion Bracco,” has just one entry, from last April.

Bracco was elected to a second four-year Council term in November 2010. He did not return a phone call seeking comment as of press time.

Compared with Bracco’s campaign activity, Woodward went on a tear in 2011, hauling in nearly $7,000 in donations from some familiar Gilroy faces, including $100 from certified public accountant and 2011 Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year John Blaettler.

“What I have found is that if you start in August for an election in November, there’s just not enough time to do everything you need to do,” Woodward said. “In order to run the campaign, you’ve got to get your fliers designed, get them printed.”

Woodward also received donations from Gilroy Unified School Board Co-President Rhoda Bress, Shappel Homes, Gilroy Golf Course instructor Don DeLorenzo and local developer Tim Filice, according to city records.

Woodward, who announced his candidacy in December 2010, has spent roughly $5,300 on his campaign. Those expenditures include approximately $1,000 to San Jose campaign consultant Eric Hernandez and nearly $4,000 that Woodward says went to campaign signage, printing costs, logo design, candidate buttons and other similar items.

“If you don’t get started, you’re playing catch up the whole time. When the campaign comes, you need to be out walking the neighborhoods, going to events,” Woodward said, who was first elected in 2007. “To run an effective campaign you need to start early.”

While some campaign statements are littered with donations and expenditures, Councilman Bob Dillon’s are straight zeros: no claims of cash going in or out, city records show.

“I got no money and I don’t want no money,” Dillon said.

The reason? He won’t be running for re-election when his seat is up in November, he says.

“I’m done. I’ll be 65 in April,” Dillon said. “I feel like I did my part and now it’s someone else’s turn.”

Councilwoman Cat Tucker, who was elected in 2007, also had no campaign activity over the last six months. Tucker did report one campaign donation – $100 from anti-drug community activist Ron Kirkish – in the first half of 2011.

Councilman Peter Arellano’s campaign statements are similarly bare. Arellano, re-elected in 2010, had no activity in the last six months.

Though the freshly filed campaign statements reveal past dealings, they also can reveal future plans. Councilman Peter Leroe-Munoz, not halfway through his first term in office, has already filed to form a 2014 re-election committee, city records show, though there’s so far no activity other than a stagnant $15,000 debt he loaned to himself before the 2010 election.

View campaign statements at gilroydispatch.com.

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