As conversation of campaign donations surrounding the farmers’ market in Turlock were referenced at the Mar. 1 Turlock City Council meeting, Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth requested that the Time is Now, Clean Up Politics (TIN CUP) ordinance be addressed by City Council.
“We’ve had some lively discussions over the course of the last couple of weeks, and some people in the community have come up to me saying ‘what is TIN CUP,’” said Mayor Gary Soiseth.
TIN CUP was a campaign finance ordinance proposed by Councilman Steven Nascimento in 2014. The ordinance would disqualify a Councilmember from voting on an issue where a Councilmember received a large donation from an individual involved with the project. This limit was set at $2,000.
In 2014, the City Council, then comprising of Councilmembers Amy Bublak, Bill DeHart, Forrest White, Steven Nascimento, and then Mayor John Lazar, addressed a TIN CUP ordinance in Turlock.
In February 2014, multiple community members spoke against the ordinance and Council discussion also discussed the implications of unethical practices and lack of notice for the public to engage in the dialogue.
In April 2014, discussion regarding the ordinance resulted in it being removed from the agenda and never receiving a vote. One of the topics that was discussed was the FPPC 460 forms which document campaign finances. Even though the ordinance could not find its footing with the City Council, Councilmembers Amy Bublak and Steven Nascimento did agree to proceed with making the 460 forms viewable online.
As a Mayoral Candidate at the time, Gary Soiseth had previously announced plans to follow self-imposed campaign finance restrictions during the upcoming election and was unfazed by the decision. Soiseth said he would “lead by example,” accepting only $1,500 from individuals and $3,000 from farms and businesses.
“I didn't need a city ordinance to require my campaign to be transparent,” Soiseth said. “… It is my belief that this campaign's message will continue to resonate with a wide range of folks from diverse political, economic, and social backgrounds.”
And again in August 2014 during the heat of that year’s election race and when campaign finances were revealed, Soiseth told TurlockCityNews.com that he would continue to follow self-imposed campaign finance restrictions in the election despite the Turlock City Council voting down a city ordinance for campaign finance reform.
Soiseth’s campaign message did resonate with the said “wide range of folks” as Soiseth beat challenger Mike Bream and was elected by a large percentage margin – 60.93 percent to 38.69 percent, according to final results posted on the Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters website.
On Feb. 20, 2016, at a Special Turlock City Council meeting regarding the Turlock farmers’ market, former Mayor Brad Bates expressed his concern about potential conflicts of interest. Bates suggested that Mayor Soiseth recuse himself from the vote due to contributions received during his 2014 campaign and stressed showing transparency and accountability, despite disclosing campaign contributions required by the Fair Political Practices Commission and as TurlockCityNews.com did its due dillegence of noting connections and relations of donors. All donations were legal and ethical. An informed electorate approved by overwhelmingly electing Soiseth as Turlock’s Mayor.
Believing that the TIN CUP ordinance needed to be discussed to address community interest, Mayor Soiseth set it as an item for future consideration to provide information on TIN CUP’s history and previous Council discussion.