UPDATE, NOV. 28, 12:24 P.M.: Another week, another conflict of interest case in Anaheim.
This week, Councilwoman Kris Murray is in the hot seat.
In May, Murray voted to approve a city contract that went to Willdan Financial
, the subsidiary of a consulting firm, which “employs her as its senior vice president,” according to Adam Elmahrek
's Voice of OC story.
Tracy Westen, CEO of the Center for Governmental Studies in LA, told Voice of OC that Murray's vote doesn't only constitute a conflict of interest, but also “a possible violation of statewide Fair Political Practices Commission regulations, which bar public officials from participating in decisions that financially benefit firms in which they have an interest.”
City officials, however, say it wasn't a violation, telling the Voice of OC that the contract, which maxed out at $15,000, “was too small to have a significant financial impact” on the company Murray works for.
That reasoning didn't sit well with many of the people who commented on the story, though.
“$15,000 may not be a lot of money to lobbyists and insiders like Murray, but it's certainly a lot to most families, especially the ones who the City laid off!!!!”
UPDATE, NOV. 10, 2:06 P.M:
Once The Voice of OC
broke a story about a conflict of interest in Anaheim, city officials started dropping like flies.
In September, the Voice of OC's Adam Elmahrek reported that a significant number of city contracts were going to Scott Fazekas & Associates, Inc., a building safety services firm, whose founder also sat at the helm of the city's building division. By October, amid public frustration and claims of conflict of interest, Fazekas resigned. Soon after, Richard Brooks, an assistant building official, also resigned.
And last night, City Manager Tom Wood
joined the exodus. (I guess it was the night for well-established names to step off their power perches, eh, Joe Paterno?
During a closed-door session of last night's council meeting, officials told Wood, who had worked for the city for more than 20 years, about a “desire to move in a different direction regarding the management of the City,” according to a city press release.
The city gave Wood the chance to resign, and he did.
ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 13, 1:43 P.M.:
Today, the Voice of OC
broke a story about Scott Fazekas,
who heads Anaheim's building division. Fazekas is also the founder of Scott Fazekas & Associates, Inc.
, a building safety services firm.
Since Fazekas got the gig, the city of Anaheim has forked over at least $18,954 to his firm, according to Adam Elmahrek's story. What's more, before Fazekas had the city job, his firm got only eight percent of the city's plan review business, and now it gets more than 80 percent of it, Elmahrek writes.
Fazekas says he was not directly involved in the business boost his firm received and one of the staffers who was responsible for the outsourcing decisions, Gerald Caraig, told the Voice of OC that he chose Fazekas' firm because it was the cheapest.
Also, Fazekas told the Voice of OC he wasn't Cariag's direct boss, trying to lessen the seeming conflict of interest.
But, Fazekas' defense wasn't good enough — at least not for most of the commenters on story.
Commenter lostinspace writes:
“'We're unavailable for comment.' 'We don't make the decision, that's someone else.' 'I'm not his boss, he just works for me.' Now that's leadership, a great way to instill public confidence. Obviously, Anaheim has some accountability issues.”