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State reviews complaint against Weste

Councilwoman's property raises suspicions about conflict of interests

Posted: August 22, 2008 9:44 p.m.
Updated: October 24, 2008 5:03 a.m.

A state commission is reviewing a complaint filed by a Placerita Canyon resident alleging a conflict of interest on the part of Councilwoman Laurene Weste for her involvement in the city's Newhall redevelopment efforts.

The complaint filed by Placerita Canyon residents Ben Curtis and Val Thomas alleges Weste's position on the council's Economic Development Subcommittee and the city's Redevelopment Agency is a conflict of interest.

Weste owns about 10 acres of property in the north Newhall area that falls within the city's redevelopment boundaries.

Weste told The Signal last week that she abides by all the rules and recuses herself from all votes relating to the north Newhall area.

The complaint was filed with the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, which regulates financial conflicts of interest among elected officials.

The commission has two weeks to notify Thomas of whether the commission will investigate the situation.
The complaint sent to the commission, however, did not point out specific votes that could be considered conflicts of interests.

Though he could not specifically comment on the complaint, the FPPC's executive director said that generally for a conflict of interest to occur, there needs to have been both a vote and an economic interest on the part of the public official.

"A conflict of interest arises at the nexus of official action and the public official's economic interest," said Executive Director Roman Porter.

City Community Development Director Paul Brotzman said that when something within the conflict of interest area comes before the Economic Development Subcommittee for discussion, the alternate - Councilwoman Marsha McLean - steps in.

"If she were advocating for a project that directly impacts her property, that would be inappropriate. But she hasn't," Brotzman said.

Thomas said this week that city officials didn't adequately address her concerns. She therefore went to the experts to "see if anything's there," she said.


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