The company says it's not surprised by the FPPC's decision.
"It only highlights the greater concern that the Mayor and Vice Mayor consistently and inappropriately use their City Council leadership positions and our city resources to advance their agenda against our company," the refinery said in an open letter Thursday to the city's residents.
Valero and five of its allies have spent more than $165,000 on a political action committee to influence the election, an amount that's close to three times as much as all of the candidates have raised combined.
The PAC is pushing to defeat Kari Birdseye, an environmentalist, and is backing Christina Strawbridge and Lionel Largaespada, to candidates the committee sees as Valero backers.
The energy company claims that McLaughlin, Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and Vice Mayor Steve Young inappropriately used city money, time and energy to go after Valero in an effort that supports Birdseye.
"The goal of these political antics is to provide the Mayor with a secure majority vote for a single minded agenda to negatively impact our refinery," Valero said. "This is just the latest example of the Mayor using bully tactics against our company in her quest to shut down our business," the company said.
Birdseye has been critical of the refinery and has expressed support for the mayor's proposed safety regulations that emerged after Valero's May 5, 2017 full-facility power outage that led to a major release of toxic sulfur dioxide.
That proposal, called an Industrial Safety Ordinance, failed at the City Council.
Strawbridge and Largaespada do not support the ordinance. The three candidates, along with a fourth candidate, William Emes, are running for two spots on the Council.
McLaughlin, the city attorney, said the city was disappointed with the FPPC's decision but is still looking into the matter. In fact, city officials still have not been able to confirm what questions were used in the poll, she said.
On Thursday night, the Council directed McLaughlin to get a copy of the questions from the commission and Valero to determine if they violated the city's clean campaign laws.
One of the firms Valero hired to conduct the poll, EMC, has refused to hand the questions over.
Gary Winuk, a lawyer representing EMC, argued that the poll was conducted in full compliance with federal, state and local laws. EMC does not engage in campaign advertising and the poll was not partisan, Winuk argued in a Oct. 9 letter to the city.
The poll's purpose was to gather feedback from local voters and the company is not obligated to hand over its questions, according to Winuk.
"Professional polling companies are under no obligation to provide you with the information you requested," he said.
Mayor Patterson and Vice Mayor Young disagree.
"We are seeking facts to determine if the polling was for or against candidates," Patterson said.
"We respect freedom of speech even for large, mega-billion-dollar fossil fuel corporations trying to bully and buy council seats." she said in an email.