LATHROP – When Lathrop City Council hopeful Balwant Singh Sandhu started talking Monday night about campaign contributions that were never properly documented, City Attorney Salvador Navarrete shut him down.
“We are having a council meeting and we act upon matters that affect the council,” Navarrete said when Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos asked him about what remedies Sandhu had at his disposal. “Election matters aren’t something that the council can concern itself with.”
But by Thursday afternoon the issue had definitely become one that affected at least one council member after Sandhu filed a complaint with the state that alleges Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal engaged in what Sandhu contends is “money laundering activity” by intentionally soliciting contributions with no intention of ever using them for his campaign. Simply filing a complaint doesn’t mean there was any wrongdoing. Instead, it is a request that the Fair Political Practices Commission examine a particular concern and - if it is within its purview - to act on it.
Dhaliwal is running against incumbent Chaka Santos in the Lathrop mayor’s race on Nov. 6.
The matter centers around a $500 check that Sandhu wrote to Dhaliwal back in 2010 during his run for the council. It is a check that ended up being cashed but was allegedly never disclosed in campaign filing reports. Not doing so would technically be a violation of California’s campaign disclosure laws.
“I had heard rumors of Sonny Dhaliwal taking political donations and converting them for his own personal use,” Sandhu said in a statement. “After checking his campaign filings, I found that he had cashed my check and never reported it. I believe Lathrop deserves elected officials who obey the law.”
The Bulletin obtained a copy of the facsimile copy of the check that Sandhu wrote – which shows it posting on Nov. 8 of 2010.
Dhaliwal said the first time that he heard of any accounting improprieties was on Monday and that he has started looking back through his records to see what, if anything, might be out of place.
“If we do find something we’re willing to wait for the instructions from the Fair Political Practices Committee to determine how best to correct it and how we can move forward at this point,” Dhaliwal said. “I hadn’t heard anything about this until Monday so we’re looking back into our records to see if there’s anything at all there.”
With the Lathrop City Council election in just over two weeks, words coming out of the camps of individual candidates have been growing sharper – starting with the accusation that Sandhu isn’t a Lathrop resident and then blossoming into the back-and-forth arguments that Monday’s meeting was plagued with.