This morning I received confirmation that the FPPC will be investigating the complaints filed last week alleging that Santa Ana Council members Claudia Alvarez and Vince Sarmiento violated state conflict of interest rules when they voted on their appointments to outside boards which receive compensation. As I reported previously, Alvarez’s appointment to the Orange County Water District Board garnered her more than $30,000 in additional compensation in 2010.
The complaint was filed by Santa Ana resident Glen Stroud, a former member of the Orange County Grand Jury and former city commissioner. In a letter to Stroud, the FPPC indicates that they will be investigating the complaint and that the letter does not constitute any determination as to the validity of the complaint.
I spoke with Councilman Sarmiento last week regarding the question of his and Alvarez’s votes on their appointments to the outside boards. Sarmiento indicated that if the votes were determined to be improper he would ask to have the votes retaken. Unfortunately, that is not the way the process works, as former Yorba Linda Councilwoman Jan Horton learned the hard way. She was fined by the FPPC $3,000 last week for voting on matters that affected areas within 500 feet of property she owned.
At the time of our conversation Sarmiento took issue with comments I had made in an email that explained to interested residents of Santa Ana what process needed to be followed to file a complaint with the FPPC. He felt that my calling him a moron was inappropriate, and said there was no excuse for calling him such a term. Funny, he had no problem giving Alvarez a pass for comparing Irv Chase to Hitler in statements made publicly while chairing a meeting of the City Council.
For the record, I have retracted my allegation that Alvarez and Sarmiento are morons. They are not idiots, they’re attorneys who wrote the City Code of Ethics and Conduct ordinance. They knew, or should have known, that they were breaking the intent if not the letter of both city and state laws prohibiting them from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest, when they did just that.