FPPC complaint names Mayor Breeden, Councilman Mower

Watchdog organization files conflict-of-interest complaint over PACE

FPPC complaint names Mayor  Breeden, Councilman MowerBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

Mayor Peggy Breeden has been named in a California Fair Political Practices Commission complaint following the Ridgecrest City Council’s decision last month to block access to loans offered by the Property Assessed Clean Energy program. The Checks & Balances Project, a watchdog organization, has filed the complaint following the Oct. 4 vote.

“We recently received a tip from a reader asserting that Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mower both have connections to the local real estate lobby, which has a financial interest in seeing PACE eliminated in Ridgecrest,” said a letter to the city attorney from C&BP Executive Director Scott Peterson.

Peterson alleges that The Swap Sheet (owned by Breeden) is an affiliate member of the Ridgecrest Area Association of Realtors – whose representatives strongly opposed the practice of PACE loans – a status that presents a conflict of interest.

Mower’s son James is also a realtor who has vocally opposed the PACE program.

The PACE program offers up-front financing for energy-efficient home improvements. It allows homeowners to finance these improvements by paying them back through property tax assessments. But local realtors and lenders approached council with several concerns about the PACE program’s misleading and “predatory” lending practices.

Opponents of the PACE program also pointed out that there have been at least four major legislative adjustments to PACE’s lending practices to prevent the program from taking advantage of homeowners.

C&BP filed lawsuits against the Kern County Board of Supervisors and the Bakersfield City Council earlier this year for similar allegations.

The organization questions whether Breeden and Mower worked with the realtors to influence the final vote to ban access to PACE financing.

Breeden and Mower declined to comment on the allegations, but City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen said he was preparing an official response from the city’s legal counsel. See future editions for more information.

Story First Published: 2017-11-17