Ethical Lines Blurred or Crossed? Mayor Hires Her Political Campaign Manager as Council Executive Assistant at Irvine City Hall

This series on ethics presents real life situations that our city has or is facing pertaining to our current City Councilmembers, and then asking our readers to be the judge.

The first article was regarding Councilmember Mike Carroll’s misappropriation of tax dollars. The second article was regarding a potential conflict of interest by Councilmember Tammy Kim. The third article took a dive into Councilmember Larry Agran and Irvine Community News & Views. This article will take a look at Mayor Farrah Khan’s mingling of her re-election campaign and with her work as Mayor of Irvine.

It is perfectly acceptable for the Mayor to hire and pay a staffer with our tax dollars to assist her with her mayoral duties. But what if that same staffer is also the Mayor’s re-election campaign manager?

Mayor Farrah Khan Hires Her Political Campaign Manager as Council Executive Assistant

Mayor Farrah Khan hired Progressive Solutions Consulting for her 2022 re-election campaign. Progressive Solutions Consulting, which is run by Melahat Rafiei, was also Mayor Khan’s political consultant for her 2020 Mayoral race as well as her 2018 City Council race. 

On September 9, 2021, Mayor Khan hired Cory Allen as one of her Council Executive Assistants (CEA). According to the Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700) that Allen filed with the State of California, he is also employed by Progressive Solutions Consulting.

Since his employment with the City of Irvine, Allen has sent multiple emails seeking donations for Khan’s 2022 mayoral re-election campaign as her political Campaign Manager. At the same time, as Mayor Khan’s Council Executive Assistant, Allen is paid with Irvine taxpayer money. 

Cory Allen is also the Campaign Manager for another mayoral race in the city of Anaheim. The Irvine budget for council executive assistants more than doubled last year. Was this increase intended to help pay for political campaign managers who are also Irvine council executive assistants? 

Council More Than Doubles Council Executive Assistants Budget

According to the Voice of OC article, in May of 2021, Irvine City Council members decided to significantly increase their personal council budgets and remove nearly all safeguards on how they spend that money. 

Prior to this change, council budgets were separated into categories with spending limits for things like mail, postage, council executive assistants. Now, each councilmember is given a lump sum to use at their discretion. 

This budget has increased from $80,000 a year to $175,000.

The budget increase passed by a narrow 3-2 vote with Khan, Kim and Carroll approving the deal, and Kuo and Agran voting against it.

Councilmembers Khan, Kim, and Carroll approved the increase even though there was no source of money to fund it. To fund this increase, it required the city securing $475,000 a year from sponsorships — sponsorships which the city did not have at the time of the vote. 

Was the decision to increase council executive budgets approved without the needed funding in place to help finance political campaign consultants on taxpayer dime? 

Were Ethical Line Blurred or Crossed? 

  1. Is it a conflict of interest to hold campaign and city staff positions simultaneously?
  2. By what method is Cory Allen separating his hours working on his various political campaigns as opposed to Irvine city business? 
  3. Is it ethical for Mayor Khan to give a public sector job to her political consultant?