Public officials warned of conflict of interest

February 20, 2012

City officials throughout San Luis Obispo County regularly vote to appoint themselves to local boards that pay stipends to attend meetings, a practice that a Fair Political Practices Commission staffer says violates conflict-of-interest-laws. [LATimes]

Statewide, city council members and mayors get paid to sit on sanitation, air, fire and water boards. Proponents of the practice contend the stipends of usually between $100 and $200 a meeting as insignificant.

Opponents of the practice contend it violates state political laws.

“Fair Political Practices Commission staff member Gary S. Winuk, chief of enforcement, has concluded that the votes violate state political law,” the LA Times said. “Rather than fine the council members, he issued letters to 40 of them in Orange County, telling them to stop. He agreed that the money at issue is not significant enough to warrant prosecution and penalties — at least not yet.”

The full commission is slated to discuss the issue on March 15.



  1. oceanone says:

    Let’s all vote ourselves into positions of power which pay us money. Is this the reason most politicians leave office wealthier than going into office?

    (13) 13 Total Votes - 13 up - 0 down
    • doggin says:

      So what your sayin is you don’t understand a politician spending whats shown below for a job making .001% of the cost of getting there? BTW below is a account of Obama’s campaign expenditures. This comes from

      Sector Description Total Expenditures
      Administrative Travel $60,788,187
      Salaries & Benefits $58,756,288
      Miscellaneous Administrative $21,183,755
      Postage/Shipping $16,841,136
      Rent/Utilities $10,615,733
      Supplies, Equipment & Furniture $4,788,975
      Administrative Consultants $1,432,820
      Food/Meetings $437,144
      Campaign Expenses Campaign Events $32,012,975
      Polling/Surveys/Research $28,043,988
      Materials $7,759,721
      Miscellaneous Campaign $2,561,014
      Political Consultants $2,298,902
      GOTV $899,546
      Campaign Direct Mail $110,000
      Contributions Parties (Fed & Non-federal) $40,255,727
      Contrib Refunds $5,661,816
      Committees (Fed & Non-Federal) $9,115
      Candidates (Fed & Non-federal) $5,033
      Fundraising Fundr Direct Mail/Telemarketing $28,481,746
      Miscellaneous Fundraising $1,357,740
      Fundraising Events $162,930
      Fundraising Consultants $19,100
      Media Broadcast Media $244,437,691
      Miscellaneous Media $133,211,869
      Internet Media $26,555,479
      Print Media $20,462,672
      Media Consultants $2,676,282
      Other Charitable Donations $129,055
      Transfers Miscellaneous Transfer $7,500,000
      Federal Transfer $7,002

      (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
  2. SLOBIRD says:

    Council members, mayors, board of supervisors have a budget for attending meetings. They get the use of their agency’s vehichle (no cost), they get a stipend set by their agency for meals and misc expenses not provided by the board or commission they attend (usually the board provided meals). And god knows the board of supervisors for this county get paid quite well (as of 2009 it was $142,000 in salary & benefits). Remember, this county has approximately 250,000 residences and they attend one meeting a week and they all have a personal assistant aside from the pool of employees (clerks, secretaries, etc. at their deposal). This is not LA County requiring a full time position unless they choose to do so. They should not be compensated as this is their job. They fight for these positions.

    (12) 20 Total Votes - 16 up - 4 down
  3. TypoKing says:

    How is this a conflict of interest?

    These boards are vital to meeting the needs of their constituents.

    City council members in the 7 SLO cities are paid generally a very low amount to attend council meetings. And there are many, many functions they attend with no compensation.

    As far as the various boards go would you give up your time in the middle of the day, use vacation time from your employer, or lose work if you are self employed to be compensated zero?

    The Fair Political Practices Commission is just gearing up to issue fines on a grand scale to easily fill their own coffers.

    There is plenty of ‘unfair practices’ right here in SLO county that should result in fines and prosecution!

    Just because you get $100 or so to attend a meeting does that mean you would vote differently on any particular issue?

    I guess an alternative would be to hold a special election (after the general election of council members as most these boards require you to be a council member). This would cost millions upon millions of dollars!

    And if you eliminate compensation altogether you are going to get only wealthy retired people for your local government.


    (-21) 33 Total Votes - 6 up - 27 down
    • danika says:

      You seriously don’t get how voting yourself into a paid position of power, even if it is a stipend, is a conflict of interest?

      (24) 36 Total Votes - 30 up - 6 down
      • TypoKing says:


        For your edification city council members are elected to the various boards by the OTHER members of the council. They CANNOT vote for themselves and must RECUSE themselves including any alternates for the position.

        Instead of bitching, moaning and complaining why don’t YOU come up with a way that is fair and agreeable to you place these people on the various boards.

        We are all listening!

        (-1) 7 Total Votes - 3 up - 4 down
      • TypoKing says:

        They CANNOT vote for themselves. What is your response to something you know nothing about?

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      There are many ways a politician can profit by being appointed to an agency or committee. One is by the pay the committee pays. The other is by, in stealth, working to benefit his own best interests and/or the best interests of his cohorts in public office.

      It becomes a conflict of interest when the politician’s own best interests conflict with the best interests of the people making up the orgnization he/she represents.

      The issue is ethics and conflicts of interest.

      (13) 23 Total Votes - 18 up - 5 down
      • HarryMalone says:


        You state “The other is by, in stealth, working to benefit his own best interests and/or the best interests of his cohorts in public office”.

        And you are correct in that elected officials unfortunately do this all the time.

        Corruption still happens regardless if they are PAID or not.

        (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
    • Russ J says:

      So banning plastic grocery bags is vital to me? Get a freeking grip. This is why we need a part time legislator. They dream up stupid law.

      (-3) 17 Total Votes - 7 up - 10 down
  4. whatisup says:

    Obviously the question is which local boards does this include? I would be interested in knowing if the SLO Waste Management Board and Air Quality Control Board are included.

    From the story: “Fair Political Practices Commission staff member Gary S. Winuk, chief of enforcement, has concluded that the votes violate state political law,”

    Does this make the past votes of these boards illegal and non-binding?

    (12) 14 Total Votes - 13 up - 1 down
  5. rogerfreberg says:

    Oh, there is no such thing as a small thief … especially if they are looking at each and every dollar that goes by.

    It doesn’t seem unreasonable that our elected officials would as a matter of routine appoint someone from the public.

    (7) 11 Total Votes - 9 up - 2 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      Roger, I totally agree. If there is such a thing as a “small thief,” it certainly isn’t amongst those who abuse their power as government representatives or officers.

      Ignorance, filth, and poverty are the missionaries of crime. As long as dishonorable success outranks honest effort – as long as society bows and cringes before the great thieves, there will be little ones enough to fill the jails. ~Robert Ingersoll, “Crimes Against Criminals”

      IMO, the problems is not restricted to the money that gets directly paid from the committee to the council member. Perhaps a larger problem is how the council member (or other council members) may benefit from decisions made while the council member is a member of the decision-making body of the committee or other organization to which he/she was appointed.

      This article doesn’t clarify whether it is just city council members, or if it is all local governing agencies (i.e., including Community Service Agencies). The regulations should apply to all local government agencies because they all have the power to abuse the power of appointment to really screw over the people they are supposed to be governing.

      Just look at the travesty the Los Osos wastewater treatment facility project has become,—or he Oceano CSD’s history of unethical and illegal activities—or the Nipomo CSD’s using flawed tests of sentry wells in Oceano (the condition of the wells was so unsuitable for being used as sentry wells, the results–before they were brought up to par–are worthless) to frighten their customers into blindly accepting the huge rate increases and property special assessments to just partially pay for the water line to transfer water from Santa Maria to the Nipomo Mesa.

      Indeed, NCSD board member Mike Winn, when speaking to the SLOCo BOS, made sure to use his position with WRAC (chairman), when trying to further the lie about “saltwater intrusion” in the Oceano sentry wells. This was following the meeting of the Oceano CSD board of directors, in which they issued a letter (with supporting documentation), stating flat out that there was no saltwater intrusion and the reason for the one isolated abnormal levels of sodium, chloride and potassium was because the well was unsecured and in terrible disrepair.

      The NCSD BOD has much to lose from the truth about the “saltwater intrusion” becoming common knowledge, especially if it becomes common knowledge with the government agencies to which NCSD used “saltwater intrusion” as justification when they applied for the loans/grants for the pipeline project for transferring Santa Maria water to the Nipomo Mesa.

      How about the Oceano wastewater treatment facility’s governing board, whose members are all appointed from local area government agencies? Not only was ethics flushed out to sea decades ago, but, even though they have been caught and outed, with the issuance of a scathing Grand Jury Report, it is still business as usual, and John Wallace continues to rack up fines that the rate payers will have to pay for. All the while, John Wallace continues to send no-bid SSLOCSD contracts to his company, The Wallace Group.

      Indeed, as is the case with the Oceano WWT facility, it sometimes appears that specific appointments are made by local governing agencies because a particular member has a conflict of interest (or stands to gain from the policy direction of the committee to which the member is appointed takes).

      (8) 22 Total Votes - 15 up - 7 down
  6. doggin says:

    Wonder if this also covers some of our counties finest who have also managed to be elected to the likes of the SLO County Flood Control and Water Conservation District or other Administrative governing positions. By God and wouldn’t ya know it but they also provided the Zone 3 Urban Water Management plan and coincidentally enough, well just happen to also own an engineering company that well….coincidentally enough will provide all the engineering and fixes found in their reports.

    (21) 23 Total Votes - 22 up - 1 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      Good point, doggin.

      The reason the Orange County officials were targeted with warning letters by the state is because a business owner who lives in O.C. sent complaints about the O.C. officials to the state.

      So, if we want this practice of conflict-of-interest laden appointments to stop in our county, we need to start sending the complaints.

      (21) 25 Total Votes - 23 up - 2 down

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