Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 15, 2015

CA Fair Political Commission Opines No Conflict of Interest Where Board Member’s Property is Located within 500 Feet of Newly Proposed Authority to Address Flood Control and Other Measures

The Cities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto formed The San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (Authority) in order to facilitate and perform bank stabilization clearing, plan flood control measures for the creek watershed, preserve and enhance environmental values, coordinate emergency mitigations and to make recommendation to member entities for funding and alternatives for long term flood control. The Authority proposed a project that would build floodwalls, bridge alterations and upstream detentions basins to prevent further flooding from the creek, and part of the proposed floodwall was located within 500 feet of Board Member Keith’s property. Keith’s property was not located within the floodplain and she was not required to purchase flood insurance, but Keith’s access to and from the arterial streets could potentially be impaired in a major flood event.

In answering the question of whether Board Member Keith’s property created a conflict of interest, the California Fair Political Commission found that Keith’s property was indirectly involved in the governmental decision and the financial effect on the property was immaterial. Specifically, the commission found that the Authority’s project classified as repairs and maintenance against a flood, and that repair and maintenance was one of several exceptions whereby an official’s property is presumed to be indirectly involved. The commission further found that the presumption of an immaterial financial effect can be rebutted if there are specific circumstances where the official has an economic interest, but that these specific circumstances does not apply to Keith’s property because the property was not located within the floodplain, Keith was not required to purchase flood insurance and the floodwalls would not be visible from Keith’s property.

Gregory W. Stepanicich, CA FPPC Adv. A-14-053, 2014 WL 1498287 (3/26/2014)

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