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Cerritos Attorney and Council Watched as Councilwoman Lynda Johnson Violated Political Reform Act

COUNCILWOMAN LYNDA JOHNSON seen on video recusing herself and leaving the Cerritos City Council meeting because of the conflict between her employment with the LA Sheriff’s and the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station. The Political ReformAct dictates that Johnson cannot provide input or ask questions when anything related to the Sheriff’s Station is discussed, yet she asked questions for ten minutes before Mayor Chuong Vo called a recess, telling her to leave when the meeting resumed.

 

By Brian Hews

June 10, 2022 ~ In the last election, Cerritos residents in favor of holding a majority on City Council overlooked an obvious conflict of interest between candidate Lynda Johnson and her employer, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and voted her onto the City Council.

Cerritos funds a fully operational Sheriff’s station in the city; Johnson can’t have any input when discussions turn to the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station and Community Center during a City Council meeting; the station is the city’s second largest expense.

But that is exactly what happened during a budget meeting in May, with Mayor Vo and the City Attorney watching, and worse, not acting, Johnson and the council violating Government Code Section 1090 in the process.

If Johnson read the agenda before the meeting, she should’ve leaned forward into the microphone and recused herself when the sheriff’s budget item item came up for discussion.

Questions into Johnson were not answered.

Johnson knew better too;  her campaign materials bragged about her 20 years as a paralegal with the District Attorney and her years exposed to business and networking; she likely saw a recusal or two working as Supervisor Hahn’s representative.

Former late Mayor Luigi Vernola often recused himself from Norwalk Council meetings because he owned so much property in the city; as representative of Supervisor Janice Hahn, Johnson frequented Norwalk City Council meetings.

Rookie Mayor Vo blew it too; if he read the budget and did not see Johnson recuse herself, he should’ve leaned forward and told Johnson to recuse herself.

Questions into Vo were not answered.

And if the City Attorney did not see Johnson recuse or Vo asking her to recuse, he should’ve leaned forward and said, “Councilwoman, you need to recuse yourself.”

With all the legal firepower and the experience of 24-year politician Bruce Barrows and businessman Naresh Solanki, Johnson was allowed to ask questions for ten minutes before Mayor Vo interrupted and called a “ten-minute recess” that lasted nearly 30 minutes.

When the City Council and City Attorney emerged, everyone took their seat. The City Attorney spoke first saying, “As you know Ms. Johnson works for the sheriff so anytime we talk about the Sheriff’s Station she must recuse herself.”

Mayor Vo asked Johnson to leave the room; Johnson moved her chair, walked around the dais, and left the council chambers,  but the damage had been done.

The Political Reform Act and Fair Political Practices Commission Government Code Section Section 1090 “prohibits a councilperson from participating in making government contracts in which the official or employee within the agency has a financial interest.”

“Making” a contract includes final approval of the agreement, as well as involvement in preliminary discussion, planning, negation, and solicitation of bids. 

An official can have a “financial interest” in a contract in a variety of ways and it is not limited by the amount of the interest or how closely connected the official’s interest is to the contract.

“Violations of Section 1090 can result in the voiding of contracts, criminal, civil, and administrative penalties, as well as a ban on holding public office.”

As usual, no one in the city answered any questions submitted by HMG-CN.

 

Section 1090 of the Political Reform Act

Government Code Section 1090 prohibits an officer, employee, or agency from participating in making government contracts in which the official or employee within the agency has a financial interest.

Section 1090 applies to virtually all state and local officers, employees, and multimember bodies, whether elected or appointed, at both the state and local level.

“Making” a contract includes final approval of the agreement, as well as involvement in preliminary discussion, planning, negation, and solicitation of bids.   

A broad range of agreements are considered a contract under Section 1090.

Generally, there is a contract when an offer is made and accepted and there is something of value bargained for and exchanged by each party.

This includes written contracts, purchase of  goods or services, employment agreements, leases, development agreements, etc.

An official can have a “financial interest” in a contract in a variety of ways and it is not limited by the amount of the interest or how closely connected the official’s interest is to the contract.

Several exceptions to Section 1090’s general prohibition also exist and, when applicable, officials may be considered to have no financial interest or a “remote” financial interest, so that a contract, or the official’s participation in the contracting process, is not prohibited under Section 1090.

Violations of Section 1090 can result in the voiding of contracts, criminal, civil, and administrative penalties, as well as a ban on holding public office.

The FPPC issues advice letters and opinions to persons subject to Section 1090 and enforces the provisions of Section 1090 through administrative and civil actions. More information about the advice letter process is available at the FPPC’s Formal Advice webpage. To file a complaint alleging a violation of Section 1090, go to the FPPC’s File a Complaint webpage.

 

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