To the Editor: Conflict of interest in casino vote?

When the casino vote occurred in 2016 there was a hidden problem with it that few are aware of. It is called conflict of interest. Councilpersons Breeden and Mower stood to benefit financially from their vote and should have recused themselves from voting.

Curious? Read further.

From the California Attorney General’s Office:

Conflict-of-interest laws are grounded on the notion that government officials owe paramount loyalty to the public, and that personal or private financial considerations … should not be allowed to enter the decision- making process. This common law prohibition against “self-dealing” has long been established in California law.

California law prohibits a public official from being financially interested in a contract in that person’s official capacity. Eliminating temptation for public officials, avoiding the perception of impropriety and obtaining their undivided loyalty have been deemed extremely important ... it is of no import whether actual fraud or dishonesty is involved in the contract process.

So did the vote for the casino by Breeden and Mower have financial interest for them? Consider the following.

From the California Fair Political Practices Code, entitled “Is a Financial Effect Reasonably Foreseeable”:

A financial effect need not be likely to be considered reasonably foreseeable. If the financial effect can be recognized as a realistic possibility it is reasonably foreseeable.

In determining whether a governmental decision will have a reasonably foreseeable financial effect on an official’s financial interest, the following six things are to be considered.

(1) The extent to which the occurrence of the financial effect is contingent on intervening events (in other words — could the vote cause things to happen that will benefit the official)

(2) Whether the public official should anticipate a financial effect on his or her financial interest as a potential outcome (does the vote look like it will be in their favor financially)

(3) Whether the public official has a financial interest that would typically be affected by the terms of the governmental decision (is the person in the right business to benefit)

(4) Whether a reasonable inference can be made that the financial effects of the decision on the official’s financial interest might compromise a public official’s ability to act in ... the best interests of the public. (is this vote in th official’s favor or in yours)

(5) Whether the decision will provide or deny an opportunity, or create an advantage … for one of the official’s financial interests (will he or she prosper from it)

(6) Whether the public official has the type of financial interest that would cause a similarly situated person to prosper from the decision (if anyone like them would prosper from the vote, they can be expected to)

So ... do you think the casino vote should have been taken by all five council members, or possibly by only the three who had no current conflict of interest?

I say Breeden and Mower should never have voted on the casino MSA or the land sale.

This vote was tainted by their interests and has thrown this city into strife and division because of it.

Now think carefully — who deserves your vote for council and mayor next month? You decide.

Mike Neel

Story First Published: 2018-10-05