City Council candidate Ryan Embree tries to explain $18,000 judgement

Malibu City Council candidate Ryan Embree.

Malibu City Council candidate Ryan Embree is facing an $18,000 fine from the Fair Political Practices Commission. The fine is related to Embree’s last run for council back in 2006. Following a referral from the Malibu City Clerk, the commission cited the 30-year resident for not filing periodic financial disclosure documents as required by law.

The FPPC is an independent, non-partisan commission that oversees the state’s Political Reform Act regulating campaign financing, conflicts of interest and governmental ethics in the interest of political transparency. Its rules dictate that any candidate running for office in California submit financial reports identifying campaign contributions and spending. The reports are required to be filed every six months until the campaign has a $0 balance and is formally terminated. The FPPC says the purpose of filing the reports is to ensure “contributions and expenditures affecting election campaigns are fully and truthfully disclosed to the public, so that voters may be better informed, and improper practices may be inhibited.” 

When Embree ran in 2006 the municipal election was held in April; however, in February of that year there was a rainstorm and flood at Embree’s condominium. The candidate says his dwelling was contaminated with mold and that he was forced out of his unit until late 2009 and therefore did not have access to his financial reports. Furthermore, Embree claims the remediation crew working on his property threw out all his paperwork relating to his campaign because it was less expensive for them to toss papers rather than restore them.

In its decision, the FPPC says Embree did not file any of the required semi-annual reports starting in July 2006 and continuing long after he had access to his home for a period through 2014. The FPPC decision asserts that Embree was contacted by the Malibu City Clerk and the FPPC, who both reminded Embree to file the reports on at least seven occasions between 2011 and 2014. 

In 2011, according to the decision, the Malibu City Clerk “sent Respondents an email reminding them of their obligation to file.” In 2012 the City Clerk referred the matter to the FPPC’s Enforcement Division. In 2014, the Enforcement Division received a letter from Embree stating that he was still attempting to resolve the matter. That same year Embree finally filed a termination form for his campaign.  

As the early semi-annual reports had still not been filed and later ones were filed in some cases several years after they were due, the agency proposed a judgment against Embree and the campaign in late 2014. The agency tried to serve papers on Embree advising him of an administrative hearing on the charges. The papers were served to a security guard at Embree’s complex. The service occurred while he was out of town, according to Embree. While he did become aware of the notice, he chose not to take possession of the papers. Embree told The Malibu Times that he chose to ignore the summons because it required “personal service” and that the guard was “not my agent.” 

Without Embree at the hearing to defend his failure to file semi-annual notices, a default judgment was issued against him. The proposed fine of $35,000 was reduced to $18,000, as the counts relating to the period in which he was unable to access his condo were dropped. The final default judgment stated that failure to file campaign statements is “a serious violation of the Act because it deprives the public of important information about a committee’s contributors and financial activities. In this matter, Respondents did not cooperate with the investigation and ignored multiple verbal and written requests by the City Clerk and the Enforcement Division to file semi-annual statements.” Embree disputes that he was uncooperative. 

The Malibu Times communicated with Embree by phone, then by email, where he wrote, “I’d like to discuss this with you freely,” and finally, in person. He was twice given the opportunity to defend his actions and inactions on the record in a taped conversation, and both times refused. 

When asked why he waited until 2014 to start filing papers he answered that he wanted to file papers in “sequential order,” and “I’ll have to think on that one,” adding, “this is a big detailed problem that needs to be solved.”

Embree reports that at the time of termination in 2014, the campaign had a cash balance of $527, which was donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu. TMT reached out to BGCM but has yet to receive confirmation of the donation. 

Embree claims his entire campaign funds in 2006 was a modest amount of roughly $5,000. He questioned why the commission would investigate a campaign with limited funding and went on to rail against his current opponents in the race with deep pockets who are self-financing their campaigns.

At press, Embree has not paid any portion of the fine and indicated he has no intention of doing so.