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Santa Monica Councilmember Contends He Is Not Required to File Public Income Statements

 
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By Jorge Casuso

November 17, 2017 -- Santa Monica City Councilmember Tony Vazquez repeated his contention Thursday that he is not required to publically report the sources of his income, which has become the subject of an investigation by the LA County District Attorney.

In a statement to The Lookout, Vazquez said he is required to list the income he received on his statement of economic interest, or Form 700, "only if they (the firms) are located in or doing business in my Santa Monica City Council’s jurisdiction."

"Because none of my business transactions through my firm Vazquez and Associates have taken place, related to or are planned to take place in my Santa Monica City Council jurisdiction, I am not required to disclose these transactions on the Form 700," Vazquez said in his statement.

According to his deposition in a voting rights lawsuit against the City, Vazquez's firm received income from two companies that conduct business in Santa Monica -- the East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU), a nonprofit development company, and Keygnt LLC, a municipal financial consulting firm.

The two firms have received contracts from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD), where the Council member's wife, Maria Leon-Vazquez, has served as a board member since 2000.

Prosecutors are reviewing Leon-Vazquez's votes that favored her husband's clients, according to an article Tuesday in the LA Times.

It is unclear from his statement whether Vazquez contends that Keygnt and TELACU's contracts with the SMMUSD do not constitute doing business in his Santa Monica jurisdiction.

Other than his statement, Vazquez did not comment on the matter.

In his statement, Vazquez refers to a regulation of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) that covers income disclosures.

“After lengthy consultations with legal counsel," Vazquez wrote, "I have been advised I am required to report discloseable investments and sources of income (including loans, gifts, and travel payments) only if they are located in or doing business in my Santa Monica City Council’s jurisdiction, are planning to do business in my Santa Monica City Council’s jurisdiction, or have done business during the previous two years in my Santa Monica City Council jurisdiction."

Fred Woocher, a public interest attorney who has advised Santa Monica elected officials during political campaigns, said Vazquez should have filed the income he had earned.

"It doesn't matter" if the company is not based in his jurisdiction, Woocher said. "If the company is doing business in Santa Monica, he needs to report it, even if that business is not with him."

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Vazquez, who was elected to the City Council in 2012, filed no “reportable income” on 700 Forms filed with the City Clerk for the years 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, according to an investigation by The Lookout (“Santa Monica Councilmember Tony Vazquez Has Reported Earning No Income Since His 2012 Election,” November 3, 2017).

However, on the income statement for his 2012 City Council campaign, Vazquez listed Keygnt and TELACU -- as well as the Law Offices of Luna and Glushon -- as sources of his income, which he reported was between $10,000 and $100,000.

In his re-election campaign statements for 2016, Vazquez listed no income.

In his November 2016 deposition in the voting rights lawsuit, Vazquez said that between 2008 and 2013 his consulting firm was paid between $1,500 and $2,500 per month by Keygnt, which provides school districts with benefits reviews.

In July 2010, his wife voted to approve a contract with Keygnt to review SMMUSD employee health benefits, according to the LA Times.

She also voted for a financial consulting contract with the company worth up to $241,000 and cast votes over several years on work involving the company.

In his statement, Vazquez said that Keygnt, "disclosed in their own transactions with (SMMUSD) its relationship with Vazquez and Associates, stating unequivocally this business relationship has nothing to do with any matters concerning the SMUSD."

This year, Leon-Vazquez voted to approve TELACU as an “on-call” contractor and cast votes for a contract to upgrade facilities at elementary schools worth up to $174,000, according to The LA Times.

In his deposition, Vazquez testified that since at least 2008 he has been paid between $1,000 and $8,000 a month by the non-profit construction and property management company.

Vazquez set up a meeting between Schools Superintendent Sandra Lyon and an executive of TELACU, which was seeking a construction contract with the district ("Santa Monica Councilmember Vazquez Acknowledged Potential Conflict Existed," November 14, 2017).

"I'm sure they wanted to try to do some business in the City -- in the school district," Vazquez said according to the transcript.

TELACU also conducts business in Santa Monica as the operator of the Rick Weiss New Hope Apartments near the Santa Monica Pier for those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS ("Doors of Hope Open," May 24, 1999).

TELACU's website says the company is currently accepting applications for the units.

The 25-unit project was built in 1999 by the Los Angeles-based Project New Hope with a Housing Loan from the City, according to City officials.

TELACU's only involvement with the City of Santa Monica is "to submit regulatory reporting to the City as part of the agreement they have with New Hope," said Constance Farrell, Santa Monica's public information officer.

The City issued a statement Tuesday stating that it "does not currently do business with Keygnt LLC or TELACU Construction Management and has no record of doing business with either entity in the past."

Vazquez, who is a candidate for the Board of Equalization in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, said he has never been accused of violating disclosure laws.

"In my 35-year career, both private and in public office, I have never been
accused, investigated or convicted of breaking any law regarding financial
disclosures or conflict of interest," Vazquez said in his statement.

"I have devoted my entire career to the betterment of my community and advancing the interests of all of my constituents."

 


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