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Businessman hit with $2,500 fine

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POSTED May 18, 2017 1:25 a.m.

 A Lathrop businessman who has never shied away from politics is facing a $2,500 fine from the Fair Political Practices Commission for an unauthorized flier he admittedly distributed during the 2014 election cycle.
Dalwinder S. Dhoot, the owner of Joe’s Travel Plaza, is scheduled to have his stipulated settlement heard by the commission next week regarding a mass mailer that he sent out to registered voters within Lathrop as an attempt to derail the chances of incumbent Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal winning a second term.
According to the stipulation sheet that will be voted on by the members of the commission, Dhoot spent $1,385 for a mass mailer on October 29, 2014 – just one week before voters were to go to the polls and cast their ballot for either Dhaliwal, the incumbent, or Rosalinda Valencia, an outspoken critic of Dhaliwal and the city’s administration.
Dhoot reportedly violated the Political Reform Act because the mailer did not list the name, address and city of the sender of the mailer, which went out to 1,590 households in Lathrop. He also didn’t take other necessary steps before embarking on the political mission.
“Before the election, Dhoot did not file any campaign statements as an independent expenditure committee disclosing the expenditures for the mailer. He included a disclaimer that the mailer was not authorized by a candidate or committee controlled by a candidate. He did include a website but it did not link to any information that would indicate who sent the mailers but instead to additional negative information on Dhaliwal,” the stipulation said. “The failure to timely file campaign statements was considered as an aggravating circumstance but not charged as a separate count.
“Dhoot’s conduct in this matter showed intent to conceal his identity as the true sender of the mass mailing.”
The complaint that was received by the FPPC also claimed that the mailer was sent out in conjunction with one that was legally sent out by Valencia – which had the proper identifiers – but that claim was unsubstantiated by investigators.
Dhoot has reportedly accepted responsibility as the sender of the mailer, and because he had no prior history with the commission’s enforcement division, a fine of $2,500 is being proposed instead of the $5,000 maximum that could be imposed given the circumstances of the case.
But while he’s never been formally investigated by the FPPC, Dhoot is no stranger to local politics.
After a failed attempt at getting the council to work to overturn Measure C – the one-cent sales tax increase that provides more than $2 million in funding annually to the City of Lathrop, 40 percent of which goes to the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District – despite the fact he made no comments in opposition to it prior to its placement on the ballot for November of 2012, Dhoot filed a lawsuit against the City of Lathrop and backed Valencia as a candidate against Dhaliwal.
That lawsuit was ultimately dismissed and a judgement was granted for the city in which he was financially responsible for the nearly $100,000 the city spent fighting the case.
In 2016 he financially backed a candidate who was running on a campaign to overturn the city’s decision to allow a Flying J Travel Center – which will be his only competition within the city limits once it’s completed. A consortium of local business owners, believed to be funded by businesses interests in the area that would see their profits cut into by the Flying J, organized a well-funded effort to gather enough signatures on a petition to force the council to revisit the Flying J matter and reconsider their unanimous decision. The campaign of Steven Macias, Dhaliwal’s 2016 opponent, failed on election night and the petition was defeated after many the signatures that had been submitted – gathered with the oversight of an attorney hired by the group and a local political consultant – were deemed to be invalid.
Dhoot’s matter will be considered by the commission on Thursday, May 25 at 10 a.m. at the FPPC offices in Downtown Sacramento. If the commission refused to accept the proposed stipulation, the matter will be dismissed and any payments made in accordance with the stipulation will be refunded.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.

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