Sunday, May 16, 2004


Councilwoman Condron promotes her husband's company's credit card scrip

Shortly after the March 2 primary election, the Press Democrat reported (3/4, "SR leaders vow to help replace fireworks funds"),

"City leaders celebrated Tuesday's vote to ban fireworks in Santa Rosa by reiterating their pledge to help nonprofit groups that relied on the sales make up the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. 'We need to go back and assist those nonprofits and find a way for them to make up those funds,' City Councilwoman Janet Condron said.

On Wednesday, she and Councilwoman Jane Bender, among the leaders of the Yes on Measure F campaign, outlined a series of fund-raising options they believe will generate substantial sums of money for the nonprofit groups."

One of those options was the CommunitySmart scrip card program, for which Condron's husband Dan—who retired two years ago as local Public Affairs Manager for Hewlett-Packard/Agilent--was the spokesman:

"Other fund-raising ideas being promoted are encouraging the nonprofit groups to participate in the annual Human Race, which raised more than $1 million for 400 organizations last year, or having them join in a newly created credit card program that will earmark a portion of sales at participating retailers for designated groups. Dan Condron, community relations director for the fledging Community Smart program, said 100 cardholders spending $800 a month at participating grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants could generate as much as $24,000 a year for a single nonprofit group."

Following the election, Councilmember Condron continued to encourage nonprofits to participate in the new CommunitySmart credit card scrip program being promoted by the Nietech Corporation, where her husband Dan is Community Relations Director. A brief Press Democrat Empire item reported 3/25 ("Fund-raising forum set for nonprofits"),

"Now that Santa Rosa voters have banned fireworks, city officials will meet with the 39 nonprofit organizations that previously sold fireworks to steer them toward other fund-raising opportunities."

"The city is offering nonprofit groups an opportunity to earn money by joining Santa Rosa's graffiti eradication program or participating in the annual Red, White and Boom Fourth of July celebration at the county fairgrounds. Another plan would allow nonprofit groups to enroll in a credit card program that provides rebates when supporters spend money at participating businesses."

"Now that voters have spoken, City Councilwoman Janet Condron said the nonprofit organizations will be more likely `to sit down and see how these other (fund-raising) systems work.’'"

PD columnist Chris Smith added 3/25 ("Up from the ashes of the fireworks vote"),

"nine of the 40 organizations that sold fireworks in Santa Rosa have committed to joining the new Community Smart program. It's a clever, local-born program that allows people to generate donations to schools or community groups simply by doing business with participating merchants."

The PD announced Nietech's then two-week-old program in a business story last December (12/6/03, "Scrip enters electronic age"), naming former Councilmember Mike Runyan as a director, and Dan Condron as an employee:

"A Santa Rosa company has launched an electronic scrip program aimed at providing an easy way for consumers to funnel some of their shopping dollars to nonprofit community groups. Called CommunitySmart, the program in its first two weeks of operation has attracted 35 nonprofits, including the YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Redwood Empire Foster Parents, and 1,000 participating consumers who register through Summit Bank.

The parent corporation, Nietech, founded by Larry LeMaitre-Roberts and Shawn Rosales, also has attracted Mike Runyan, former Santa Rosa councilman and Food4Less owner, to its board and former Agilent Technologies executive Dan Condron to work with the nonprofits."

The City Council banned the sale of fireworks in Santa Rosa last September, which stopped some small nonprofits from selling Fourth of July fireworks to raise money for their charitable causes. Condron, a Councilmember since 1994 and former Mayor, voted for the ban. Then she was Treasurer of the Yes On Measure F committee, that defeated a fireworks industry challenge of the city ordinance at the March 2 election.

Prominent local political consultant Herb Williams, who has worked on election campaigns for several incumbent Councilmembers, assembled the Yes On Measure F committee, and ran its campaign. He told the PD before the election that supporters would find other fund raising methods for the small nonprofits that were used to selling fireworks.

The PD reported 2/12 ("SR fireworks fight one of costliest ever"),

"Williams said he has a strategy that could halt the industry's winning streak by neutralizing his opponent's most powerful argument. The pro-F side is in the midst of developing other ways for the 39 nonprofits to raise the same revenue they would lose if Measure F is upheld.

They have the city's garbage company, North Bay Corp., willing to put up $50,000 a year to help nonprofits that assist in the city's graffiti eradication program. Space is being created for nonprofits
to make money at the annual daylong Fourth of July fireworks show at the county fairgrounds.

'Before this election is over, we will have found ways for the nonprofits to replace all the money they will have lost,' Williams said. 'Once that happens their argument goes away,' he said."

Then the PD printed a debate on Measure F in February (2/15, "SR ban sparks debate"). Councilmembers Bender and Condron, and West End neighborhood leader Carol Dean, wrote the "Yes On F" argument. They said,

"Local businesses have pledged to donate $60,000 to the 39 nonprofits who will help remove graffiti. The Volunteer Center has pledged to work with the 39 nonprofit groups for the Human Race. Last year nonprofits raised more than $1 million for their organizations by participating in the Human Race. Community Smart has a tremendous program to benefit nonprofits through shopping at local stores which in turn donate to a designated nonprofit and requires little or no effort."

At this time, CommunitySmart and Summit State Bank are promoting three kinds of CommunitySmart cards in Press Democrat ads: Community Card, Credit Card, and Debit Card. Their slogans are "Cash Contributions to Sonoma County Schools and Nonprofits" and "Personal Rewards for You" Their ads say "Call or visit Summit State Bank and get your free COMMUNITYsmart(TM) card today."

California's conflict of interest laws and regulations don't apply when elected officials take part in election campaigns. But in this case, it appears that Councilmember Condron--in her capacity as an elected official--promoted her husband's company's product not only as part of the Yes on F campaign, but also after it was over.

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