Local Politics

Monday, Jul 01 2013 10:30 PM

Democrats take issue with Vidak's paperwork

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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Andy Vidak is running for the 16th Senate District and was interviewed by The Californian editorial board.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

Some of the business interests that farmer Andy Vidak has spoken about in debates or that are listed on his website were not disclosed on forms that candidates are required to file.

Vidak, a cherry farmer and Republican from Hanford, is running in a hotly contested and closely watched race for the 16th State Senate District against Bakersfield Democrat Leticia Perez.

The election to replace incumbent Michael Rubio, who resigned, is July 23.

Vidak's Statement of Economic Interest fails to disclose financial information about two of his three reported businesses.

All elected officials and those running for office must file these statements, also known as 700 forms.

Vidak's 700 form fails to list any investments, income or assets, or real property interests from two businesses the candidate has said he owns and operates: a cattle ranch in Tulare County, which is mentioned on Vidak's campaign website; and a lettuce-cooling operation, which Vidak noted in his opening statements during his Bakersfield debate with Perez Thursday.

A Democratic Party official filed a complaint about the omissions. Douglas Kessler, the Region 8 director of the California Democratic Party, complained on Thursday that Vidak had failed to disclose ownership of the cattle ranch and a lettuce business.

According to Vidak's website biography, the candidate is "a partner in a lettuce cooling operation in San Joaquin" and is also "a rancher who raises cattle in Tulare County."

Vidak, 47, reported on his March 26 form that he owns and operates a cherry farm in Hanford, which is valued between $100,000 and $1 million. Vidak's 700 form also lists his income from farming as between $100,000 and $1 million, and it lists his interests in real property as two parcels of farmland at 13775 Lacey Blvd., Hanford, valued between $100,000 and $1 million.

Vidak did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Californian.

During opening statements at the Thursday debate, he said it was his "dream of having my own farm and ranch."

"I farm now in both Kings and Tulare counties and I have -- run -- a lettuce-cooling business in San Joaquin," Vidak said during his opening statements.

Tim Orman, Vidak's campaign consultant, declined to discuss the 700 form specifically.

"We are reviewing the filing and once we've completed our review, we will let you know what you see," Orman said Monday, estimating that the process should be completed in 24 to 48 hours.

A representative of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which administers the disclosure statements, confirmed Monday that the commission received the complaint Friday, and is reviewing it "to determine whether or not to open an investigation."

"Any business that he has in the state of California would be reportable if he had a 10 percent or greater interest," said Lynda Cassady, chief of the FPPC's advisory unit, adding that Vidak must report "something that he has on the date that he became a state candidate."

Perez, his opponent, was, not surprisingly, critical.

"I don't understand why you wouldn't just be truthful with the public. How somebody could tout these businesses, these entities and not even bother to list them," Perez, 36, said. "The public needs to know what our economic interests are and who we're tied to, so they can understand why we vote the way we vote."

According to a Jan. 9, 2007 story in The Packer newspaper, a produce industry publication, Vidak was general manager of a lettuce-cooling operation in Fresno County -- Delta Packing of San Joaquin LLC -- for "more than three years" before leaving in December 2006.

The Secretary of State's website shows that Delta Packing's Limited Liability Corporation, or LLC, status has been canceled. A related entity, Delta Packing of Lodi Inc., in San Joaquin County, is listed in active status.

It remains unclear where exactly Vidak is a partner in a lettuce-cooling business. The Secretary of State's website also shows that a corporation for which Vidak is listed as president, Vidak Ranches Inc., of Visalia, has had its corporate status suspended since May 2008 for non-filing of state tax returns.

It is unclear whether this is the cattle ranch Vidak mentions on his website. The address listed for Vidak Ranches Inc. is a tract home in the 600 block of South Linda Vista Street in Visalia. In an interview last week, Vidak said the ranch never had any income because during the incorporation process, he decided not to go ahead with the incorporation.

"I was going to make my ranch a corporation," Vidak said June 24. "It didn't make sense for me to have it, so I just went ahead and dissolved it. (T)here is no taxes because it never had any income."

According to Denise Azimi, spokeswoman for the state Franchise Tax Board, the corporation has not been dissolved because its status is suspended. Azimi said that the corporation's tax returns must be filed, and any outstanding tax issues resolved, before the corporation can be dissolved.

Representatives of the Kings County Ass-essor, Clerk-Recorder's office said they have no record of Vidak having a business license or running a business in Kings County.

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