The Voice of OC has a story Tuesday that suggests Irvine Council member Christina Shea is exploiting a loophole in the city’s ethics ordinance to lobby efforts on behalf her client — Kia Motors — to City of Irvine staff.
From Adam Elmarek’s piece, these gems:
Now, emails and text messages have emerged that show another side of Shea, one that isn’t so different from those she’s crusaded against.
On multiple occasions since last year, Shea has contacted officials in the city’s planning department with special requests on behalf of Irvine-based KIA Motors America, which also happens to be Shea’s consulting client, according to records obtained by Voice of OC under the state’s Public Records Act.
In an interview, Shea denied doing anything wrong and asserted that the communications didn’t violate the city’s ordinances governing lobbying and ethics. She said she routinely helps businesses with City Hall issues, and that her consulting work for KIA had nothing to do with her efforts to help the Korean carmaker with requests at City Hall.
“I do this for any business that contacts me, any citizen that contacts me,” Shea said.
However, a good government expert even said even if the communications weren’t illegal, they were unethical, and that Shea should “either work for KIA, or work for the city, but she really shouldn’t be doing both.”
“How does it look? It doesn’t look good,” said Bob Stern, co-author of the 1974 Political Reform Act.
City insiders have long known that Shea works as a consultant for KIA. But what exactly she does for KIA is a mystery, and Shea is reticent to answer questions about it.
At first, Shea said her work outside Irvine City Hall is a private matter and that she wouldn’t disclose the nature of her consulting for the carmaker. After being pressed by a reporter, she offered scant details that included work on “community relations,” donations to public agencies and “immigration issues.”
“I do community relations. I’ve done fundraising. Not fundraising… mostly I’ve worked on donations,” Shea said. “We’ve given money to Santa Ana. We’ve given money to organizations all over the county… what I do for KIA has nothing to do with City Hall… This is my private business, and I don’t need to go into detail.”
She didn’t say it in the interview, but an online profile for the Las Vegas-based WATB Group, which describes her as the company’s “local/federal government liaison,” states that she performs “government relations for KIA Motors America.” Her personal website states that she “provides government relations and sales consulting for KIA Motors America” and other companies.
Shea also wouldn’t disclose how many hours a week she works for KIA, or how much she is paid. Her statements of economic interest, forms public officials are required to file that disclose sources of income, only states that her consulting firm receives over $100,000 from two companies, one of them being KIA.
One must wonder if Kia would be working with Shea if she weren’t a city council member. Her lobbying work on behalf of Kia seems to be in conflict with her previous statements that she isn’t a lobbyist when city officials worked to pass an ethics ordinance in 2006.
We’ve documented that Shea uses a council assistant as a personal babysitter. We’ve asked the city for timecards to document how much time Shea’s council assistant bills time to the city outside of the typically business day and were told these records don’t exist.
Shea’s personal online body guard, Lt. Pat Rodgers, came to her defense at the VOC right away, accusing Council member Jeff Lalloway of being a source:
“The OC Voice has now reached the level of ‘trash’ comparable of the work of The Liberal OC. Your ethics allegations rise to something I would expect from from the Liberal, but no where else. My question to you Adam is who are serving as a shill for? You were told by the City Attorney there were no conflict of interest or ethics issues involved in Shea’s consulting relationship with Kia Motors, but you still wrote your dirt anyway. My bet your source and motivation would be the one pseudo conservative Council Member who frequently has temper tantrums because Christina Shea doesn’t buy into to his “bully boy” tactics. My thought is, he wants to intimidate Shea from running for reelection in 2016. I might remind you Mr. Lalloway that Christina Shea was working on behalf of Irvine citizens long before you showed up on the scene. Additionally, Christina has more credibility and popularity with voters than you will ever have. Your underhanded actions and refusal to work a a member of the Team Irvine is going to cost you not only supporters but votes when you run for Mayor in the next election.”
Lalloway hasn’t announced intentions to run for the next election but Shea did attend a fundraiser for Gang Chen, the Great Park neighborhoods resident running on a quiet platform to eliminate a Veteran’s Cemetery at the Great Park. Should current Irvine Mayor Steven Choi make it to the top two for the AD-68 race, he’d have to surrender his city council seat for the November 2016 election; if he comes in third in a 3-horse race, under new term limits guidelines, Choi could seek a third term as mayor.
What Rodgers fails to recognize is city hall employees are often great sources for stories and Shea has a track record of verbal abuse when it comes to politics with them. In 2006, she allegedly threatened the president of the Irvine City Employees Association (ICEA), Kevin Moynihan, after Team Irvine, of which Shea was a member didn’t get that union’s endorsement.
Tensions between Lalloway and Shea have never been strong dating back to his first run for office; he was able to get Beth Krom to vote for Lynn Schott as Mayor Pro Tem over Choi’s nomination of Shea after Choi replaced Lalloway with Shea on the county’s Air Quality Management board.
How many more examples of Christina Shea’s questionable ethics do Irvine voters need before they retire her from the city council?