To Melissa Fox and Christina Shea: There IS a Conflict of Interest
Below is a prepared speech by Robin Gurien that was to be delivered to the City Council on June 26th. Although she was unable to give the speech due to an issue with the public comments request, the Council clerk was kind enough to accept an email of it and distributed it to the Councilmembers.
There is more to a conflict of interest than whether or not a Council member earns a direct paycheck for their work on other boards and projects. A conflict of interest could occur because of potential land development deals or real estate sales that Council members could benefit from. Or there could be a conflict of interest due to relationships that board members have with others who stand to benefit from their votes and positions on the Land Trust Board. Conflicts of interests can occur due to the nature of gifts, reimbursements, donations, or other contributions that could change hands.
Tonight, we heard Irvine City Attorney Melching confirm that Council members Shea and Fox do not get any money from being on the Board of the Irvine Land Trust and the Irvine City Council at the same time, and that as a result the Council members have not engaged in a conflict of interest. I believe that Mr. Melching, and Council members Shea and Fox have misunderstood the complaint. It is that Council members Fox and Shea, as board members of the Land Trust, requested funding from the Irvine City Council, and then as council members of the City of Irvine, voted to approve that funding. This is the simplest conflict of interest relationship that can exist: you used your power in your positions as Council members to benefit your work as board members of the Land Trust.
By “stacking the deck” on this decision, you give credence to the complaints of corruption and impropriety that Council member Shea claims have been plaguing her on social media. Though these comments may in fact be par for the course for an elected official in today’s political world, there are actions that the Council members can take to reduce them: embrace more transparency on the Irvine Land Trust. Even if there is no government code requiring non-profit agencies to allow members of the public to attend the board meetings, allow unrestricted access anyway. Even though a non-profit doesn’t have to post its by-laws for the public, post them anyway. Even though the land trust doesn’t have to record and/or publish meeting minutes, record and publish anyway. Go beyond what you have a right to do; do what is right.
Showing the residents of Irvine more transparency in the decisions and actions that affect us will give us less reason to doubt your sincerity.
Robin Gurien, PhD has been a resident of Irvine since 2007.