Fullerton Mayor Doug Chaffee and Council Member Jennifer Fitzgerald have financial interests in properties near the Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan (DCCSP) area, and should recuse themselves from both the discussion and vote on the controversial plan.
Office holders are required to disclose potential conflicts of interest on California’s Fair Political Practices Commission’s Form 700, filed annually. The most recent Form 700 filings by both Mr. Chaffee and Ms. Fitzgerald show them to have financial interests in properties located near Commonwealth Ave. near the downtown area. All of Commonwealth Ave. is located in the DCCSP.
Jennifer Fitzgerald’s Form 700 shows income from rent on a house she owns located at 449 W. Amerige Ave., located less than 500 feet from Commonwealth Ave.
California law states that public officials must recuse themselves from participating in discussions and decisions regarding property if they have a financial interest in or own property located in or within 500 feet of the area subject to the decision.
The fact that two out of five members of the Fullerton City Council must recuse themselves from one of the most comprehensive and sweeping zoning changes in the city’s history demonstrates that the plan itself is inherently too large, and should be either dropped entirely or broken up into smaller areas for future consideration. Proceeding with a decision with implications reaching decades into the future for the entire city by only three of the people’s representatives does not responsibly serve our democracy.
The government’s definition of what constitutes a financial interest, and when public officials should recuse themselves from discussions and decisions where they are identfied as having a conflict of interest are included below for reference.
“87103. A public official has a financial interest in a decision within the meaning of Section 87100 if it is reasonably foreseeable that the decision will have a material financial effect, distinguishable from its effect on the public generally, on the
official, a member of his or her immediate family, or on any of the following:
(a) Any business entity in which the public official has a direct or indirect investment worth two thousand dollars ($2,000) or more.
(b) Any real property in which the public official has a direct or indirect interest worth two thousand dollars ($2,000) or more.
(c) Any source of income, except gifts or loans by a commercial lending institution made in the regular course of business on terms available to the public without regard to official status, aggregating five hundred dollars ($500) or more in value provided or promised to, received by, the public official within 12 months prior to the time when the decision is made.
(d) Any business entity in which the public official is a director, officer, partner, trustee, employee, or holds any position of management.”
“87105. (a) A public official who holds an office specified in Section 87200 who has a financial interest in a decision within the meaning of Section 87100 shall, upon identifying a conflict of interest or a potential conflict of interest and immediately prior to the consideration of the matter, do all of the following:
(1) Publicly identify the financial interest that gives rise to the conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest in detail sufficient to be understood by the public, except that disclosure of the exact street address of a residence is not required.
(2) Recuse himself or herself from discussing and voting on the matter, or otherwise acting in violation of Section 87100.
(3) Leave the room until after the discussion, vote, and any other disposition of the matter is concluded, unless the matter has been placed on the portion of the agenda reserved for uncontested matters.
(4) Notwithstanding paragraph (3), a public official described in subdivision (a) may speak on the issue during the time that the general public speaks on the issue.”