TheLiberalOC today filed a formal Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) complaint against Irvine City Council member Christina Shea based on her conflict of interest in serving KIA Motors a s government relations representative while also directing Irvine City Staff to expedite tasks requested by her client. Requests by Shea to City staff were sent to them via Shea’s business email address, blurring the line between client service and constituent activity.
TheLiberalOC obtained the same documents from the city used by the Voice of OC in a story published late last year that detailed Shea’s financial conflict of interest on behalf of her client with her duties as a city council member. Additionally, we’re calling on the FPPC to investigate Shea’s delay in disclosing a behested Payment Report that she secured from the Irvine Company in support of the Solar Decathlon that exceeded $100,000 in value. Shea, in public comments at the Great Park Board meeting, took credit for raising tens of thousands of dollars from the Irvine Company and Five Point for the event; no form 803 was filed for in-kind or direct financial contributions from Five Point and the city of Irvine did not turn over records we believe are associated with Five Point for reasons stated in a December letter to us:
The City Attorney has determined that your request seeks certain records that may have been withheld or redacted under the following exemptions:
• Attorney client communications and attorney work product (Government Code § 6254(a));
• Materials that would expose the agency’s decision-making process so as to discourage candid discussion within the agency and thereby undermine the agency’s ability to perform its functions (Government Code § 6255 and Times Mirror Co. v. Superior Court (1991) 53 Cal.3d 1325); and
• Personal information where the public interest served by nondisclosure clearly outweighs disclosure (City of Irvine Personal Information Privacy Act, approved by the voters November 4, 2008, Government Code § 6255, City of San Jose v. Superior Court (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 1008).
According to Shea’s Form 700 for 2014, she received between $10,000 and $100,000 from her government relations clients including KIA.
From the Voice of OC story: “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 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.”
In 2010, the Orange County Fire Authority Board of Directors approved a borrowed vehicle agreement with KIA. At the time, Shea served on the board. According to the July 22 meeting minutes, then Director Bill Campbell pulled the item for comment so he could “acknowledge Director Shea’s effort to work with KIA Motors America, Inc.”
Shea “commended KIA Motors America, Inc. for continuing to give to the community,” the minutes read. She then abstained from voting on the agreement.
According to the Voice of OC’s story, the Shea/KIA business relationship outlines a glaring loophole in the city’s ethics, ethical public service and lobbying ordinances which Shea argued against in 2006.
From the Voice of OC story: “Shea’s actions might be construed as a violation of the ethics ordinance, but for a significant loophole. The ordinance bars council members from lobbying on behalf of clients at any public agency in the county – except the city.”
Since Shea is less than candid about her actual work and billable hours on behalf of KIA and reluctant to recognize the ethical conflict her work for the company presents to city staff, it’s time for the FPPC to thoroughly investigate the matter. It’s also time for the Irvine City Council to close this “significant loophole” in the city’s ethics ordinance.
TheLiberalOC filed two FPPC complaints last year against Santa Ana Planning Commissioners Eric Alderete and Sean H. Mill which resulted in both men taking corrective action in refilling their Form 700s.