The Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) launched an investigation in April into an alleged violation of the Political Reform Act by Assemblyman Devon Mathis. The assemblyman was investigated because he did not list a rental property on his 2015 annual Statement of Economic Interests (SEI).
In May, the FPPC found that Mathis did indeed violate the Political Reform Act. According to its Enforcement Division in a letter to Mathis, “Your actions violated the Act because you failed to report property that was converted to a rental property on your 2015 Annual SEI.”
Elected officials are required to submit a Statement of Economic Interests, also known as Form 700, every year. The purpose of the form is to provide transparency into any possible economic conflict of interests and ensure accountability. Mathis’ original Form 700 filed with the Secretary of State on March 1, 2016, stated that he owns no assets.
Mathis’ office referred the Valley Voice to an April 29 Fresno Bee article where he told the Bee, “Because all of the rent I collect on the property goes straight to paying its mortgage, I don’t earn any net profit, and I made the honest mistake of not listing it as an economic benefit when filling out the form,” he said. “As soon as we realized the error, we immediately amended the form to reflect the rental income.”
Mathis amended the 700 form upon being notified by the FPPC and before its Enforcement Division contacted him to initiate their investigation. In so doing, Mathis avoided a possible fine and the Enforcement Division closed the case by issuing Mathis a warning letter.
“This letter serves as a written warning. The information in this matter will be retained and may be considered should an enforcement action become necessary based on newly discovered information or future conduct. Failure to comply with the provisions of the Act in the future will result in monetary penalties of up to $5000 for each violation.”
The property in question is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house located in Visalia. Lester and Judy Kistler, who have lived next door to the property for 32 years, believe that the home was not a rental but rather was used for official business by Devon Mathis.
Mrs. Kistler said that she feels Mathis and his staff used the house for meetings and that she believed the man and woman who lived in the house worked for Mathis. According to the neighbors, soon after Mathis was advised of the FPPC complaint, the man and woman moved back to Sacramento and the house in question was put on the market.
Mr. Kistler, a veteran himself, contacted the Valley Voice earlier this year to complain about Mathis’ receiving benefits from the Wounded Warrior Project and Veterans benefits while pulling a fulltime state salary at taxpayers’ expense. The Kistlers also called wanting to complain about the condition of the house and yard when Mathis and his family resided there early in 2015. With pictures in hand to illustrate the condition of the house and yard, the Kistlers were upset that his house in Visalia might be in the same condition as his house in Sacramento, and that it would be “an embarrassment to the county.”
“He is a poor representative from our district,” said Mr. Kistler.
The Mathis family moved out of the home in September of 2015.