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Supporters Of Gas Tax Repeal Effort Allege Caltrans Broke Law By Campaigning

A Yes on 6 sign appears on a San Diego lawn, Aug. 29, 2018.

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: A Yes on 6 sign appears on a San Diego lawn, Aug. 29, 2018.

Supporters of an initiative backed by former City Councilman Carl DeMaio to repeal California's gas tax called Wednesday for an investigation into alleged campaigning by Caltrans contract workers in San Diego County.

The Yes on 6 campaign announced the filing of an ethics complaint with the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, the California Highway Patrol and the California Fair Political Practices Commission involving workers in Caltrans uniforms that DeMaio said were documented handing out "No on 6" flyers to drivers along State Highway 78.

RELATED: California Gas Tax Rises 12 Cents To Pay For Road Repairs

"In my 25 years of political involvement I never thought I would have to do a press conference like the one I just did showing evidence of a state government agency wantonly using taxpayer funds to advance a position on a ballot measure," DeMaio said.

Caltrans Director Laurie Berman said the agency is looking into the workers' actions.

"It is our understanding that these individuals were private contractors, not Caltrans employees," Berman said in a statement.

"Regardless, the department does not condone political advocacy or the distribution of campaign information on work project sites and is contacting its contractors to remind them of this."

The No on 6 campaign issued a statement denying any knowledge of the flyer distribution and denouncing "any inappropriate use of public resources or venues for campaign purposes."

Caltrans contracted Manhole Adjusting Inc. for state-funded work on Route 78 between Julian and Ramona, according to both the agency and the Yes on 6 campaign. From 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, the workers, supervised by a Caltrans employee, slowed traffic to a stop, according to the campaign and an eyewitness account, to distribute flyers that read "Stop the Attack on Bridge & Road Safety."

The Yes on 6 campaign alleges the distribution broke a state law prohibiting state and local employees from using public resources for campaign activity and that stopping traffic broke a state law prohibiting the impediment of "normal and reasonable movement" unless it is necessary to do so.

Yes on 6 also alleges the No on 6 campaign violated the state Political Reform Act by providing campaign materials to publicly-funded workers and by failing to disclose the value of the "contribution" made by campaigning.

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