Hill casts deciding vote for CAPSLO contract
September 17, 2013
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill cast the deciding vote last week to approve a contract of more than $360,000 for the organization that employs his fiancée.
Hill often abstains or recuses himself when the Board of Supervisors votes on contracts for the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, which employs his fiancée Dee Torres as its homeless services director. But, at the September 10 board meeting, he voted for a $361,347 mental health services contract for CAPSLO, that otherwise would not have passed.
Hill’s vote capped a recent pattern of the supervisor choosing not to distance himself from the approval process of CAPSLO contracts.
The Board of Supervisors currently has only four members due to the June death of Supervisor Paul Teixeira. At last week’s meeting, Supervisor Debbie Arnold recused herself from the vote on the CAPSLO contract, bringing the remaining number of eligible voters to three.
Arnold sits on the board of directors for CAPSLO, as well as on the Homeless Services Oversight Council, which approves funding for the nonprofit. County Counsel Rita Neal suggested that Arnold recuse herself from voting on CAPSLO contracts last week as she investigated whether or not the supervisor had a conflict of interest in approving funding for an organization that she represents.
Had Hill also recused himself on the September 10 CAPSLO vote, there would not have been a board majority needed to conduct a vote on the measure, and the approval of the contract would have stalled.
Prior to voting on the contract, Hill asked Neal whether supervisors possess conflicts of interest when they vote on contracts for other boards on which they sit. Hill did not, however, mention that he often does not vote on CAPSLO contracts due to his perceived conflict of interest.
The Board of Supervisors approves several million dollars annually in funding for CAPSLO, much of which goes to homeless services in the form of federal grants.
Neal responded to Hill prior to last week’s vote by saying she was still investigating the matter. Arnold told CalCoastNews Monday that Neal concluded her investigation and determined that Arnold does not have a conflict of interest in approving funding for CAPSLO because she reaps no personal financial benefit from the matter.
Neither Neal, nor Hill responded to CalCoastNews email requests for an explanation of why Hill recuses himself on some CAPSLO votes but not on others.
An examination of Hill’s voting pattern over the last two years on matters pertaining to CAPSLO contracts shows the supervisor has become increasingly lax in his efforts to avoid creating a conflict of interest.
Prior to a March 20, 2012 Board of Supervisors hearing on the distribution of annual U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant money, Hill announced that he would recuse himself.
“Mr. Chairman, with an abundance of precaution, I’m going to recuse myself on this item,” Hill said.
He then left the dais and did not return to the meeting until the completion of the item.
Two weeks later, the board approved a $301,995 contract, funded by state prison realignment money, for CAPSLO case management services. Hill again recused himself, but he neither provided a reason nor left the dais.
On December 11, 2012, the board held a hearing to discuss preliminary distribution of 2013 HUD grant funding. No vote occurred, but the board heard funding requests from several CAPSLO employees and then discussed a proposal for distributing nonprofit grant money that involved concentrating more of the funds with CAPSLO.
Hill neither recused himself, nor stated that he had a conflict of interest. Instead, he recommended that, in 2013, the board distribute the grant money to fewer nonprofit recipients.
“If we’re trying to get our administrative costs down, having less grants to administer is just one of the obvious ways to do so,” Hill said. “But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
On January 29, Hill returned to recusing himself when two CAPSLO related items appeared on the consent agenda. One item increased the prison realignment case management contract by $58,034. The other was a vote to approve appointments to the Homeless Services Oversight Council. Torres was one of the individuals recommended for appointment. Hill recused himself from both votes.
In March, the board voted on the distribution of the 2013 HUD money. Hill again remained at the dais and participated in the discussion. He argued that money allocated for an Oceano drainage project should instead go to homeless services in the county. The board then voted to reallocate some of the money, but Hill abstained from the vote.
“I’m going to abstain from the final vote, so there is no appearance of conflict in regards to CAPSLO’s funding,” Hill said.
Hill did not recuse himself, though. Meeting minutes likewise stated that he abstained, as opposed to recusing himself. Commonly, a recusal indicates a board member’s acknowledgement of a conflict of interest on an item, whereas an abstention does not.
Since his March 5 abstention, Hill has voted to give CAPSLO contracts for childcare, family services, parental education and teen parenting case management, in addition to the mental health services contract issued last week. The childcare contract, which Hill voted in favor of on June 18 totaled more than $1.5 million. On July 9, he voted for a family services and parental education contract totaling more than $407,098.