The story of the “Pay to Play” scandal on the Santa Ana City Council is getting more and more tangled as we pull at its threads. Our review of campaign finance reports for Santa Ana City Council members and projects they have voted on has revealed that when Councilman Sal Tinajero and Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez voted on revisions to the One Broadway Plaza project in July, they did so illegally.
Doug Irving over at the Orange County Register revealed yesterday that Councilman Tinajero had accepted $2,500 in contributions from individuals associated with Voit, a company in line to receive $22,350 in real-estate brokerage fees for work on the Station District project. In his report, Irving found that Claudia Alvarez had recused herself from voting on the Station District project because of a contribution she received from a company called Empire Building, which business records show is affiliated with and controlled by Voit.
It turns out that Voit handles the leasing for the One Broadway Plaza project.
This connection, causes both Alvarez and Tinajero to have a conflict of interest related to the project and they were unable to legally vote on the project at that time.
Councilwoman Alvarez had accepted her $500 contribution from Empire Building on July 22, 2009. Her conflict expired on July 22, 2010. Her vote was on July 19, 2010, making it illegal.
Councilman Tinajero is in a bit more hot water her because this vote brings the total of unlawful votes by Tinajero to 3 since June 7, 2010. Tinajero has been claiming that his failure to follow the law was inadvertent and due to staff failing to notify him of potential conflicts. The problem is that the elected official is responsible for monitoring his or her conflicts of interest. Staff can assist, but the ultimate responsibility is that of the elected official. The fact is that it is not the practice of Council members to tell staff anything about their contributions other than when they file their campaign finance statements. Tinajero is trying to throw city staff under the bus to absolve himself of what is his responsibility. He had the knowledge of contributions he received and issues he voted on. The buck starts and stops with Tinajero in this case.
As far as the One Broadway Plaza project is concerned, opponents shouldn’t be celebrating. With the expiration of Mayor Pro Tem Alvarez’s conflict, the Council has enough members eligible to vote on the revisions again if Carlos Bustamante is available to vote when they have it. The Station District project is a different story because only Alvarez, Benavides, and Bustamante are eligible to vote on the project.
So here is the score card for illegal votes cast by Santa Ana City Councilmembers since June 7, 2010:
- Sal Tinajero — 3 Votes
- Michele Martinez — 2 Votes
- Claudia Alvarez — 1 Vote
Sal Tinajero said tonight on the Orange Juice Blog’s internet radio broadcast that “this is no time for rookies” on the City Council. When it comes to voting illegally, Sal Tinajero is definitely no rookie.