State body probing conflict-of-interest claim against Santa Cruz vice mayor
Santa Cruz Vice Mayor Sonja Brunner is under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission after a complaint alleged that she violated conflict-of-interest rules by voting on the since-scrapped Temporary Outdoor Living Ordinance.
Santa Cruz Vice Mayor Sonja Brunner is under investigation by a state commission following a complaint that her vote on a city homeless ordinance violated conflict-of-interest rules.
Brunner, who is director of operations for the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz, voted to approve the since-scrapped Temporary Outdoor Living Ordinance, a provision of which would have barred outdoor camping in downtown — something the filer of the complaint alleged could benefit Brunner’s employer.
The California Fair Political Practices Commission received the complaint on March 11, and its enforcement division notified Brunner on May 19 that it was investigating possible violations of the Political Reform Act.
The new ordinance, which needs two approvals to become law, is more cut-and-dried than the TOLO, and more restrictive....
“This is one individual who reported something to the FPPC and made a claim, so of course the FPPC has to investigate the validity of the claim,” Brunner told the Sentinel last week.
Krista Corwin, who is listed as having filed the complaint, brought up the issue of conflicts of interest during the March 23 City Council meeting.
“It’s pretty foreseeable to me that banning camping from residential zones and from the downtown business district will have a financial impact on real property owners and on the downtown business association where Vice Mayor Brunner works,” Corwin said, urging that Brunner and some other councilmembers recuse themselves from voting on such measures.
Corwin’s complaint also cited Mayor Donna Meyers and Councilmembers Renee Golder, Martine Watkins and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson as having conflicts of interest as property owners, though an FPPC spokesman told the Sentinel none of them were under investigation as of Friday.
The FPPC’s enforcement division receives around 1,500 complaints and referrals per year, according to its website, from citizens, government and media. Most investigations are completed within a year, and each violation of the Political Reform Act is subject to a $5,000 fine.
The city council is set for a second and final vote on June 8 on the Camping Services and Standards Ordinance, an update on the earlier Temporary Outdoor Living Ordinance.