Oakland News Now – Thomas Espinosa – Oakland Public Ethics Commission Fines Him $309,600 – Here’s Why – video made by the YouTube channel with the logo in the video’s upper left hand corner. OaklandNewsNow.com is the original blog post for this type of video-blog content.
Late Friday night, the Public Ethics Commission took final action to impose $309,600 in fines against Thomas Espinosa, a former Oakland building inspector who was found to have committed 47 violations of the Oakland Government Ethics Act, including bribery, conflict of interest, failing to report income, misusing a City position, and misusing City resources.
Thomas Espinosa was a City employee from 2005 to 2016, working as a Specialty Combination Inspector in the City’s Planning and Building Department’s Code Enforcement Division. In early 2016, managers in the Planning and Building Department brought their concerns regarding City employee Thomas Espinosa’s behavior to the attention of the Public Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Unit, which opened an investigation. Shortly after Espinosa was notified and interviewed by Commission investigators, he left his City position. Meanwhile, Commission staff pursued the investigation and administrative action against Espinosa, culminating in a report to the Commission in 2018, an administrative hearing in April 2021, and final determination of a $309,600 penalty by the Commission on September 17, 2021.
Commission staff’s investigation found that Espinosa used his City position as an inspector to arrange under the table “quid pro quo” deals with various property owners. He assigned himself or an accomplice to inspect a property or respond to a complaint regarding a property and persuade a property owner to pay him a cash fee to secure a pass on building inspections or permits. One such incident involved the cover-up of a life-safety issue at a residential apartment complex. On other occasions, Espinosa convinced Oakland property owners or investors to hire and pay him as a business partner, independent consultant or building contractor on their building projects, despite the conflicts with his City position and without reporting these interests to the City as required by law. He further enlisted the assistance of fellow building inspector Anthony Harbaugh, who was fined $55,000 by the Commission earlier this year for his role in Espinosa’s permit-approval scheme. Harbaugh also left his City position following the Commission’s investigation.
“This case is, by far, the most extensive and egregious activity ever investigated by the Public Ethics Commission,” said Commission Chair Michael MacDonald. “The evidence in this case showed a pattern of intentional behavior for personal gain at the expense of the City, property owners, and the public, justifying maximum-level penalties of $5,000 or up to three times the amount unlawfully received, for each violation.” The Public Ethics Commission discussed the case at its public meeting on Friday, September 17, 2021, following two prior meetings in which it reviewed records from the administrative hearing that was held on April 27, 2021. The hearing officer made findings of fact and recommended a penalty of $210,000. The Commission has the authority to review and adjust the penalty and, in this case, decided to increase the fine amount to $309,600, citing the intentional nature of the violations and the impact on public safety as rationale for pursuing maximum fines. The Commission’s decision on this matter is final and constitutes closure of the Commission’s administrative process.
The Public Ethics Commission is a seven-member board of Oakland residents who, together, provide policy direction and decide on enforcement actions brought by Commission staff. In 2014, Oakland voters approved Measure CC to strengthen the Commission’s authority, independence, and staffing (from two positions to six). Also in 2014, the Commission drafted and introduced the Government Ethics Act (the law enforced in the above case), which was adopted unanimously by City Council that same year.
That’s based on an Oakland Public Ethics Commission Press Release.
Note from Zennie62Media and OaklandNewsNow.com : this video-blog post demonstrates the full and live operation of the latest updated version of an experimental Zennie62Media , Inc. mobile media video-blogging system network that was launched June 2018. This is a major part of Zennie62Media , Inc.’s new and innovative approach to the production of news media. What we call “The Third Wave of Media”. The uploaded video is from a YouTube channel. When the video is “liked” by Zennie62 YouTube, then it is automatically uploaded to and formatted automatically at the Oakland News Now site and Zennie62-created and owned social media pages. The overall objective here, on top of our is smartphone-enabled, real-time, on the scene reporting of news, interviews, observations, and happenings anywhere in the World and within seconds and not hours – is the use of the existing YouTube social graph on any subject in the World. Now, news is reported with a smartphone and also by promoting current content on YouTube: no heavy and expensive cameras or even a laptop are necessary, or having a camera crew to shoot what is already on YouTube. The secondary objective is faster, and very inexpensive media content news production and distribution. We have found there is a disconnect between post length and time to product and revenue generated. With this, the problem is far less, though by no means solved. Zennie62Media is constantly working to improve the system network coding and seeks interested content and media technology partners.
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