Anaheim Insider here.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has addressed the resignation of building division head Scott Fazekas, who had been under fire since revelation that his firm had been getting the lion’s share of the city’s outsourced plan check review work.

“We have to be concerned about perceptions of conflict,” Tait said Oct. 11 when asked about how outsourced work should be handled. 

Tait said that as the co-owner of two consulting firms, he wouldn’t allow the city to contract with his companies. “For me, as mayor, it’s not OK to have a contract with the city of Anaheim,” Tait said.

But it’s OK for Tom Tait, as an OCTA Director, to have a contract with OCTA?

The above excerpt is from an October 12, 2011 Voice of OC article headlined “Anaheim Mayor Addresses Conflict of Interest Issues.” The issue was that the building division was outsourcing some work to the firm that the building division head used to work for.

On one hand, Mayor Tait says it is not OK for his firm to have a contract with the City of Anaheim because he is the mayor. On the other hand, he says it is OK for his firm to have a contract with OCTA when he is on the OCTA Board of Directors.

The mayor’s conflict-of-interest standard is a fast-moving target.

At council meetings, Tait declares a conflict of interest on every OCTA-related agenda item and abstains from voting on them. He even declares a conflict when he legally has no conflict. For example, on September 24, on the consent calendar was an amendment to an existing agreement with OCTA regarding a grade separation project. Tait had no legal conflict: the item would impact him financially more than $500. Nonetheless, he said stated “I’m going to declare a conflict of interest on item 10.”

If Tait himself states it is a conflict of interest for him to vote on an amendment to an agreement with OCTA that doesn’t remotely impact his company or his contract, then wasn’t it a conflict for him to vote to put himself on the OCTA Board of Directors? Or to vote on that seat at all? That vote has much more direct impact on his contract than voting on Amendment No. 2 to Cooperative Agreement No. C-9-0413.

Tait told the City Selection Committee that his OCTA contract wasn’t a problem because he would just abstain from votes related to that contract. If that is true, then it isn’t necessary for him to abstain from council agenda items that have nothing to do with his OCTA contract (elected officials have a duty to vote unless they have a real conflict of interest). If Tait’s cure is true, then Tait & Associates could have a contract with the City of Anaheim as long as the mayor abstained from votes related to it.

However, Tait himself said that would “not be OK.”

Which is it? Mayor Tait is applying two different conflict of interest standards to himself. Which one is true? His council colleagues might want to ask him.

UPDATED: There were three podunk OCTA-related items on tonight’s Anaheim City Council agenda. Tait declared a conflict of interest on all three, handed the gavel to Eastman and left the dais.

So, how is it not a conflict for Tait to appoint himself to the governing board of the OCTA itself?