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POLITICS CAST SHADOW OVER CERRITOS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION APPOINTMENT

Who ordered the review by City Attorney?

Staff Report

Only one week after his appointment to Cerritos Economic Development Commission, HMG-CN Publisher Brian Hews received a letter from Cerritos City Attorney Mark Steres questioning the appointment, citing current advertising from the City as a conflict of interest.

“I thought the Bruce Barrows document dictating who should be Cerritos Mayor was bad,” said Hews, “but this is petty politics at the lowest level. I don’t blame Steres, but the person who asked for the review is placing politics above the City’s interest.”

HMG-CN has sent a public records request to the City Clerk’s office requesting the document that initiated the letter from Steres.

“I have heard who asked for the opinion, but I want to make sure,” said Hews.

Hews was appointed to the commission by Councilman Frank Yokoyama last week.

The commission acts in an advisory capacity to the City Council on the needs of existing businesses and the availability of economic development opportunities and resources. The Commission is responsible for providing input on business retention, business expansion, business marketing issues and technology related issues.

In his letter Steres stated, “As the owner of the Hews Media Group that publishes the Los Cerritos News and as a recipient of revenue from the City for advertisements placed in your paper, it raises a question of whether a legal conflict of interest exists under the California Political Reform Act that would either prohibit you from being a Commissioner or narrow the scope of your participation as a Commissioner.”

“The City Attorney’s office has researched this matter and the legal memorandum is attached. The memorandum concludes as follows: “…although the City is a source of income to Mr. Hews, that does not create a legal conflict of interest under the Political Reform Act that would preclude Mr. Hews from being appointed to the Commission nor serving on the Commission. However, due to Mr. Hews’ ownership interest in the Hews Media Group, we advise him to recuse himself from personally participating in any way or using his influence as a Commissioner in regards to the City’s actions or decisions affecting the City’s current or future advertising with Hews Media Group while he is a Commissioner. We further recommend that Mr. Hews recuse himself from participating in any discussions as a Commissioner on the Commission that is reasonably foreseeable to materially affect his financial interest in Hews Media Group, such as the marketing of the City for economic development. ”

“you should not personally contact City staff for the purpose of urging the City to place ads in Hews Media Group newspapers. Someone else in your organization should take on that responsibility.”

“That’s interesting,” said Hews, “ownership is the sole reason of the argument? Cerritos has other commissioners that are not owners but the organizations they work for are receiving income from the City, Janet Beach, who sits on a Cerritos commission, is a great example.”

The letter finished, “also, you may have to recuse yourself from discussions as a Commissioner on the Commission if certain topics are on the agenda of the Commission that may have a financial effect on Hews Media Group.”

When informed of the opinion, Councilman Yokoyama was not happy. “I just might speak up at the Council meeting,” he said.

“It is very telling of this opinion given the definition of the commission,” said Hews. “This is an advisory commission, the definition of advisory is having or consisting in the power to make recommendations but not to take action enforcing them.”

“I don’t need to deal with this, my intention was to help the City, if some in the City don’t want that, I will resign.

Most Cerritos residents are unaware that the City’s monthly Business Spotlight program was first proposed by HMG-CN.

“I came up with an idea in 2008, a full color quarterly magazine designed to attract businesses to Cerritos,” said Hews.

“As part of the magazine, we proposed a monthly Business Recognition Program at Council meetings, that was our idea and I am glad the City is using it now.”

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