Romero Wants Pringle And Katz Out!

Anthony Pignataro:

State Senator Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, is pissed. The California High-Speed Rail Authority seems to be doing all of nothing to address the controversy over Board members Richard Katz and Curt Pringle holding “incompatible offices” (the story broke earlier this month — click here to read CalWatchdog’s take — but apparently was well known in government circles since the spring).

Mincing no words, Romero wants Pringle and Katz out. Now.Here’s her Oct. 8 letter to both men, in its entirety:

October 8, 2010

California High-Speed Rail Authority
925 L Street, Suite 1425
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear (Mr. Katz/ Mr. Pringle):

I am writing to alert you to Government Code Section 1099, a state law which expressly prohibits public officials from holding incompatible offices.  California’s Legislative Counsel has issued an opinion to the effect that an individual situated as you are, serving on the governing body of both the California High Speed Rail Authority and Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), is in violation of this statute.

I authored the legislation which created this statute specifically to address the problems that arise when public officials maintain two positions that have inherent conflicts, attempting to, in essence, serve two masters.

Under the language of the statute, offices are incompatible when, “based on the powers and jurisdiction of the offices, there is a possibility of a significant clash of duties or loyalties between the offices” or “[p]ublic policy considerations make it improper for one person to hold both offices.”

You have been a faithful and dedicated public servant at both the state and the local level. Nonetheless, I concur with the opinion of Legislative Counsel and respectfully call upon you to resign one of these inherently incompatible offices.

In your official capacity as a member of the Board of the High Speed Rail Authority, you have in your power the ability to grant or deny funding to the Metropolitan Transit Authority, and to make other decisions allowing MTA to benefit from the High Speed Rail Project.  This enables you to so advantage or harm MTA as to produce an ongoing conflict of interest, making it impossible for you to faithfully and objectively execute your duties, free of allegations of impropriety. Given that you represent MTA while serving on the Board of the High Speed Rail Authority, there is an inherent conflict of interest, and the ongoing appearance of potential impropriety.

The public must have confidence in the integrity, motivations, and decision-making ability of its public officials, whether elected or appointed.  Mr. Katz, your dual role on the governing bodies of both MTA and the High Speed Rail Authority seriously compromises that public confidence, and calls into question your ability to perform your duties as a board member in a fair and impartial manner.  Ethical considerations dictate that, given the existence, or even the appearance, of a conflict of interest, the only solution is to remove the source of that conflict.

Again, I respectfully call upon you to resign one of your current offices, in the public interest.

Sincerely,

GLORIA ROMERO
Chair, Senate Education Committee

cc: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Roelof van Ark, Chief Executive Officer, California High Speed Rail Authority

Don Knabe, Chair, Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority

Attorney General Jerry Brown

Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg

Assembly Speaker John Perez

OCT. 11, 2010

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