Sometimes when cities and districts screw up on things like Brown Act violations all they have to do is do the thing over again the right way. That is the strategy they applies last October when they conducted a revote on a change in fees charged to professional soccer leagues for the use of city fields. Council members Martinez and Tinajero had accepted campaign contributions from the league that pays those fees and should not have voted on the matter. They took the vote over again and corrected that conflict of interest.
Around the same time the City had to hire an outside attorney to advise them on what to do because Martinez and Tinajero had voted on the Station District project after accepting contributions that prevented them from voting on the matter. That time they decided to simply not do anything because they would likely be sued because they would not have been able to approve the project without the conflicted votes.
On the agenda for Monday’s Santa Ana City Council meeting is item #60A: REAPPROVAL OF CITY COUNCIL APPOINTMENTS TO OUTSIDE BOARDS. The recommended action is “Reapproval of appointments to serve on outside boards by the City Council for which compensation or a stipend is provided.” This is the the Council’s way of trying to get Alvarez and Sarmiento out from under Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) complaints that they voted on their own paid appointments to outside boards in violation of state law. While a symbolic gesture, this action will not repair an FPPC violation. There are no do-overs allowed to correct FPPC conflict of interest violations.
FPPC regulations actually specify that elected officials may not vote on their own appointments to outside boards. If a vote has a material affect on the financial interests of an individual elected official they have violated the regulations. Retaking a vote after the member has received a benefit doesn’t fix the violation.
§ 18705.5. Materiality Standard: Economic Interest in Personal Finances.
(a) A reasonably foreseeable financial effect on a public official’s or his or her immediate family’s personal finances is material if it is at least $ 250 in any 12-month period.
(b) The financial effects of a decision which affects only the salary, per diem, or reimbursement for expenses the public official or a member of his or her immediate family receives from a federal, state, or local government agency shall not be deemed material, unless the decision is to appoint, hire, fire, promote, demote, suspend without pay or otherwise take disciplinary action with financial sanction against the official or a member of his or her immediate family, or to set a salary for the official or a member of his or her immediate family which is different from salaries paid to other employees of the government agency in the same job classification or position, or when the member of the public official’s immediate family is the only person in the job classification or position.
It is nice to know however that when it comes to conflicts of interests, we’ve got their attention.