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Residents express concern about conflict of interest

Complaint filed against councilwoman

Posted: September 8, 2008 9:11 p.m.
Updated: November 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.

A state commission is investigating a conflict-of-interest complaint lodged by two Placerita Canyon residents against Santa Clarita Councilwoman Laurene Weste, a state official confirmed Monday.

Val Thomas and Ben Curtis filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging Weste's involvement in Newhall redevelopment decisions is a conflict of interest since she owns about 10 acres of property within the city's redevelopment boundaries.

Roman Porter, the commission's executive director said Aug. 22 the commission would decide within two weeks whether it would investigate.

In a letter addressed to Thomas on Sept. 3, the executive director wrote the FPPC "will investigate the allegation(s), under the jurisdiction of the FPPC, of the sworn complaint you submitted."

The letter said the commission has "not made any determination about the validity of the allegations you have made or about the culpability, if any, of the person you identify in your complaint."

Weste serves on the council's Economic Development Subcommittee and is a governing member of the city's Redevelopment Agency. Both consider matters pertaining to north Newhall where Weste owns property.

"Councilmember Weste has participated in processes and proceedings in which she has a direct financial interest in the final outcome of the (North Newhall Specific Plan), and therefore has a conflict of interest," Thomas wrote in the complaint.

Weste said she recuses herself from all votes pertaining to the north Newhall area.

"I step aside whenever there's an issue and I have no reason not to step aside," Weste said Monday.
"I'm completely following the city attorney guidelines and the FPPC guidelines."

The complaint does not list specific votes that could be considered conflicts of interest.

Though he could not comment specifically on the complaint, Porter has said for a conflict of interest to occur, there generally needs to be a vote and an economic interest on the part of the public official.


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