Posted by: Patricia Salkin | March 8, 2015

CA Fair Political Practices Commission Opines City Council Members Who Own Property in Project Grant Area Have a Prohibited Conflict of Interest

San Luis Obispo City Council Members Dan Carpenter and John Ashbaugh owned real property within the boundaries of an area where the City Council was to award a grant. This grant proposed physical alternatives and policy changes that would include or exclude specific sites throughout the City. The applicable standard for a property directly involved is the “one penny rule,” which provides that a governmental official’s real property is presumed to be material unless proof is provided showing that it is not reasonably foreseeable that the official would benefit a penny’s worth on the property, and in regards to an indirect involvement of an official’s property, the financial effect of a governmental decision is presumed not to be material unless it can be shown that the development could have an economic interest on the property, the use of the property has an economic interest to the official or if the character of the neighborhood would be effected.

The commission noted that the councilmen did not provide enough facts to determine whether the grant had an indirect material affect on their property. The commission concluded by finding that the councilmen had a prohibited conflict of interest due to location of their properties to the grant project, and that neither official may participate in a segmented decision until the decision in which there was a conflict of decision has been decided.

J. Christine Dietrick, CA FPPC Adv. A-13-160, 2014 WL 764125 (2/10/2104)

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