SP Housing Authority: Council majority declares conflicts of interest for commission appointments

August 24, 1999
Santa Paula City Council
It was a case of musical chairs at the Aug. 16 meeting of the City Council when three members stepped down from a discussion regarding appointing Santa Paula Housing Authority commissioners due to conflicts of interest. Mayor Jim Garfield and councilmembers Don Johnson and Robin Sullivan all excused themselves from the discussion on just how the city will appoint two members of the Santa Paula Housing Authority: both Bob Russell and Rick Araiza are up for reappointment and the field of contenders for the spot has risen to a record high. Also up for reappointment is Helen Butler, a tenant representative.Dee Dee Chambers, Mary Deines, Nancy Malvasio and Marybeth Power are new applicants for Santa Paula Housing Authority duty overseeing subsidized housing and other related programs for lower-income families and individuals.Garfield’s company, Cal-West Real Estate, does Housing Authority property management; Johnson’s newspaper, the Santa Paula Times, has accepted advertising from several of the applicants; and Sullivan, an attorney, has represented an applicant.The flight of the councilmembers from the dias left just Vice Mayor Rick Cook and Councilwoman Laura Flores Espinosa. . .and two council members is not enough to make the appointment decisions.Wrangling over how to proceed pitted Espinosa and City Attorney Phil Romney, who said he is awaiting a written ruling from the Fair Political Practices Commission on the issue of how to proceed.Cook told Espinosa, “You and I can’t do it. . .” and Romney noted that the Housing Authority can still carry on with business until the voting issue is determined.Espinosa made a motion that she and Cook be declared a quorum - a move objected to by Romney - but it died from a lack of second from Cook as he declared as acting Mayor.
“It can’t die there is no quorum and no motion,” said Romney.Espinosa wondered why applicants for the Housing Authority were not in attendance at the meeting: “The public was anticipating the interviews like I was,” and the lack of public notification - the applicants were contacted by phone the Thursday prior to the meeting, Espinosa was told - could represent a Brown Act violation, a comment being made for the record, she said.“All comments will be on the record but we don’t have a meeting,” due to the lack of quorum, said Romney.It is expected the issue will be brought back to the council - well, at least to Cook and Espinosa - in October.Sullivan later asked that a report be prepared for the council regarding the Housing Authority’s status as an, “alleged quasi-authority of the city and liability of the city. . .”

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