The Liberal OC blog’s Chris Prevatt feels that it is an FPPC violation for Council Members to vote to appoint themselves to municipal commissions and boards that pay a stipend. Prevatt, a high school grad who did not complete college, has purposefully misinterpreted Government Code §§ 87100 which states:
No public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making or in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest.
The question is whether or not a stipend constitutes a “financial interest.” Does it? I don’t think so. This law was meant to stop people from getting onto boards so they could vote in a way that would benefit them financially. Getting compensated for your time does not, as such, constitute a “financial interest.” In fact, I can prove that Alvarez and Sarmiento LOST money by serving on these boards.
According to Prevatt, “Alvarez voted to reappoint herself to the Orange County Water District Board on January 4, 2011; a position from which she earned $30,000 in 2010.”
In the month of September this board met three times, according to their event calendar. Figure each meeting went about two and a half hours. And figure that the board members had to spend let’s say another two hours reading the agenda materials. That comes to 13.5 hours. Now extrapolate that to 12 months and you get 162 hours.
Alvarez was allegedly paid $30,000 as a stipend, or compensation, for the hours she put into this board. Divide that by the hours she put into this board and that comes to $185 an hour. But wait, what about travel time? Three meetings per month – let’s say an hour round trip per meeting. That comes to 12 hours. So add that to the 162 hours and you get 174 hours, bringing her hourly stipend to $172.
According to Lawyers.com, the national average billing rate for lawyers is $284 per hour. That means that Alvarez, a very successful lawyer who is a longtime Assistant Orange County District Attorney, LOST $19,140 by serving on the Orange County Water District Board.
Now let’s consider Santa Ana Councilman Vince Sarmiento. According to Prevatt, Sarmiento “voted to reappoint himself to the Transportation Corridor Agency on January 18, 2011; a position that pays $120 per meeting.”
According to this agency’s website, they have had only two meetings this year. Let’s figure each meeting ran 1.5 hours, and the board members spent two hours per meeting on pre-meeting preparation. And let’s add in one hour per meeting for travel. That comes to 11 hours. But the stipend would have probably paid only for the time spent in the board meeting. So Sarmiento spent nine hours, but his stipend came to, at most, $260. Sarmiento is also a successful lawyer. So he lost $2,864 by serving on this board.
Prevatt also is alleging that “in addition to state law, their votes appear to also violate the city Code of Ethics and Conduct. Municipal Code: Code of Ethics and Conduct adopted June 2, 2008, second bullet.” Here is the code in question:
RESPONSIBILITY/PROTECTING THE PUBLIC’S INTERESTS
- I do not accept gifts, services or other special considerations because of my public position.
- I excuse myself from participating in decisions when my or my immediate family’s financial interests may be affected by my agency’s actions.
- I do not give special treatment or consideration to any individual or group beyond that available to any other individual.
Again, Prevatt is completely off-base. Getting a stipend to compensate you for the time you spend on a board or commission is NOT a gift. It is compensation – and both Sarmiento and Alvarez LOST money by serving on these boards.
Not only did Prevatt create this fake scandal, he also had to know, from the start, that he was blowing smoke. Or perhaps he actually believes his ridiculous charges?
Let’s not forget that Prevatt also called Sarmiento and Alvarez morons. These Council Members are LOSING money serving the public interest. That doesn’t make them morons – it makes them dedicated public servants. The moron, I think, is Prevatt, who has now been publicly exposed for his unethical lame attempts at journalism – and his even lamer legal theories. He would be better served going back to school and earning a college degree. Then maybe he might be able to get onto a board or commission himself.