Anaheim Insider here.
The Orange County Register has picked up the issue of whether Mayor Tom Tait can and should serve on the OCTA Board of Directors since the company that he owns and runs has a $330,000 contract with OCTA. The contract runs for another 19 months, and so far OCTA has paid Tait & Associates $127,483.
It is certainly a conflict of interest when judged against the conflict standard established by the mayor himself. Maybe he’s giving himself a waiver.
It’s OK If The Contract Isn’t Too Big?
In the Register, Tait claims he can vote “fairly” as an OCTA Director, but that’s not the issue.
“If I didn’t feel I could serve fairly, I wouldn’t do it,” Tait said of his upcoming two-year term on the OCTA board.
Tait told the reporter that “It’s not a large contract.” Does that matter? Would it be a conflict if it were for $1 million or $5 million instead? Does that mean he would not be able to vote “fairly” if the contract were bigger?
Tait still hasn’t answered the question of why it is a conflict for him to vote on OCTA-related items on the council agenda that have no financial impact at all on him or his company, but it is not a conflict to vote himself on the board of directors of a public agency that is paying him for work. He told the reporter he abstains because the City Attorney told him he should:
Tait currently abstains on any OCTA-related issue that goes before the Anaheim City Council, saying that he is avoiding a conflict-of-interest based on advice from the city attorney.
This is a disingenuous answer because Tait has always abstained from voting on items where he imagines the perception of a conflict might exist, even when there is no legal conflict, no matter who the City Attorney was. It’s his decision and his standard, not the City Attorney’s.
The Anaheim City Charter doesn’t say Anaheim city employees can serve on the City Council as long as they “abstain on anything involving” their jobs. It prohibits them from serving absolutely because it is an inherent conflict for them to have plenary authority over their jobs and over those who supervise them.
By the same token, Tait, as an OCTA Director, has authority over the staff who oversee his contract and will vote on all sort of matters directly affecting them and their jobs. What if OCTA staff to whom Tait & Associates report have a different but important item before the Board of Directors? Will Mayor Tait abstain on any matter that has any impact on any OCTA department or staff member with any connection to his contract?
If he follows the conflict-of-interest standard he established for himself years ago as an Anaheim councilmember, Tait will probably be abstaining left and right at OCTA board meetings. Or he might follow the new and different standard he has created for himself regarding OCTA.
Why Take Out Eastman?
Tom Tait still hasn’t explained why he booted Gail Eastman from the OCTA Board so he could take the spot for himself. He told the OC Register:
“I want to make sure the taxpayers’ money is spent wisely,” Tait said. “I also want to reduce commute times on our roads and freeways and increase mobility for those who don’t drive.”
Does he think Eastman didn’t want to do the same things? In the year since he voted to appoint Eastman to the OCTA, Tait never said so. He never said anything on the matter, and still hasn’t. Strange for Mayor Transparency to be so untransparent about his motives.
At the end of the day, Mayor Tait is operating under a double-standard, violating his own principles and being disingenuous about his motives.