This past May, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) fined Milpitas Councilmember Anthony Phan in the amount of $15,000.
Phan was found to be in violation of three counts of the Political Reform Act in 2016 during his run for Milpitas City Council. He was 22 at the time. In a press release distributed on May 19 of this year, the FPPC stated that Phan failed to properly report a loan, made impermissible cash transactions, and did not disclose the necessary contributor information required on campaign statements.
“After six long years, I’m pleased this matter has finally come to a close. I’m thankful to the FPPC for coming to an agreement with me in settling the issue,” Phan shared with The Beat.
Back in 2016, when Phan was running his first City Council campaign, he started a Committee known as Neighbors for Anthony Phan 2016 – City Council. This Committee reported that on August 24, 2016, it received a $43,000 loan from Phan himself.
However, the FPPC soon discovered that, according to bank records, no deposit of $43,000 was ever made. Records did show, however, that a bank deposit of $5,000 was made on September 27, 2016.
According to the FPPC case report, Phan stated that he had intended to make the $43,000 loan deposit. He says that he put all the money in cash in a Nike shoebox and gave it to his treasurer, a cousin of his, to deposit.
However, his cousin never deposited the money. The cousin was only 14 years old at the time he became the Committee’s treasurer in 2016. Phan took over as treasurer at the beginning of 2017. The FPPC has been unable to locate his cousin, and since he was a minor during the time of the violations, he was not named as a respondent in the case.
When asked why he hired his young cousin to be treasurer for his campaign, Phan stated:
“I’m grateful to have had my family volunteer their efforts on the campaign. Our volunteers had different roles and responsibilities. My cousin who was a freshman in high school was my treasurer.
“Campaigns often enlist youth as volunteers, as they are given an opportunity to gain valuable skills.”
Phan stated that Le’s mother told him it was too large a sum of money to be deposited into the account, so in the end, his cousin only deposited $5,000.
Phan claims he didn’t find out that all of the $43,000 wasn’t deposited until January of 2017— after the election.
Unsure of how to “fix” the discrepancy, Phan went ahead and reported that $20,000 of the loan was actually forgiven.
The FPPC’s case report states that the investigation made by the Enforcement Division could not “confirm or deny Phan’s account of these events.”
After the case was opened in August 2017, Phan amended campaign statements again. In his amendment, he put down the $5,000 loan, did away with the $20,000 loan forgiveness, and added a $2,500 loan from himself to the Committee.
The FPPC also found that Phan and his Committee made impermissible cash transactions by accepting the $5,000 cash loan from Phan, which was not disclosed until later. $4,500 in cash expenditures was also found to be an impermissible transaction. According to Phan, the $4,500 was made as a repayment to himself for the loan.
In the campaign’s last violation, Phan and his Committee inaccurately reported occupation and employer information for some individuals who contributed to his campaign. Twelve people who made donations were disclosed as “unemployed or retired,” which was found to be inaccurate.
Phan stated that the donations were procured through a fundraising effort put on by a colleague, and that the colleague did not provide any information for the contributors, so Phan decided he would make up the information himself.
During the November 2016 election, Phan and his Committee received $31,712 in donations and spent $35,097.
“That was my first campaign for city council, I was fresh out of college and 22. Mistakes were made, I’ve taken responsibility, and I’ve grown a lot since then,” Phan wrote to The Beat in a text.
Phan won his 2016 Milpitas City Councilmember campaign and served for 4 years. He also won his 2020 Councilmember campaign, and just last week, announced he would be running for Mayor of Milpitas. His 2020 campaign had no known violations. He is currently running for Mayor against Councilmember Karina Dominguez and Vice Mayor Carmen Montano.
“I settled this matter before launching my mayoral campaign to put this issue in the past and get back to work taking on the big issues and moving Milpitas forward,” stated Phan.