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City Attorney Seeks Advice on Potential Councilmember Conflict

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By Jorge Casuso

August 22, 2023 -- Can City Councilmember Lana Negrete take part in Council discussions and decisions regarding the sale of the City owned Civic Auditorium to the School District?

That was the question City Attorney Doug Sloan asked the State's Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) in a letter Friday after a complaint was filed alleging Negrete had a potential conflict of interest.

The potential conflict is based on Negrete's co-ownership of the Santa Monica Music Center, which has done business with the District for 25 years. Negrete has been involved in the business since 2014 and has been an owner since 2019.

"It would appear that any association between the Council decision and the District’s potential use of unrelated and unrestricted funds at the Councilmember’s business is completely speculative and unassociated," Sloan wrote in his letter to the Commission.

The Music Center -- which Negrete owns with her father on a 50-50 basis -- was paid $87,806.60 by the District for instruments, supplies and services between April 2021 to February 2023, according to Sloans's letter.

Of the total, $42,335.54 was "related to the purchase of music-specific PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) due to the COVID pandemic," he wrote.

"The average annual net profit from the “school bid orders” received from the District is between 5% and 20%, with items often given to the District at cost or donated," Sloan said.

The Santa Monica Music Center has an annual gross revenue of some $2 million, with less than 5 percent coming from the District, according to the letter.

Sloan noted that the Music Center "does not provide any services at the Civic Auditorium" and that any potential transaction "would not include the City paying any funds to the District."

The Council is scheduled to discuss the sale in closed session at its September 26 meeting after the School Board last Thursday voted to continue negotiations.

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