In January 2016, TheLiberalOC filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission after a Voice of OC story by former reporter Adam Elmharek revealed that then Irvine council member (now Mayor) Christina Shea may have engaged in a conflict of interest by serving KIA Motors a s government relations representative while directing Irvine City Staff to expedite tasks requested by her client.
Emailed requests by Shea to City staff were sent from Shea’s business email address, blurring the line between client service and constituent activity. Shea no longer represents KIA and we infrequently contacted the FPPC to ask for updates only to be told the case was still pending.
In today’s mail, the FPPC tells me the Enforcement Division of their organization opened a case, began an investigation and came to a resolution which will be submitted for consideration on Thursday June 13 at 10AM in Sacramento. Shea has previously opined in the blogs that she had been cleared by the FPPC and also stated that the Irvine City Attorney concluded she did nothing wrong which has all the truthiness of a Donald Trump tweet about fake news.
For background, the Voice of OC stories prompted the inquiry.
From that story:
The FPPC sent a letter to Shea on Jan. 12 (2016) notifying her that it was considering an investigation into the “use of your official position to influence city staff on behalf of KIA Motors, a source of income to you, in violation of” the law. The letter asked Shea for a response within 10 days.
In a brief interview, Shea denied that the agency had begun an official investigation. She said she hired an attorney who put together a response and that it was sent to the FPPC on Tuesday.
Following Shea’s denial, FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga confirmed again that the investigation was underway. “She can think what she wants. The letter says what the letter says,” he said.
Shea also said her attorney reviewed all of her contacts with city staff and found that there were no violations of the state law because there were no “governmental decisions” she tried to influence on behalf of KIA.
Shea declined to share her attorney’s analysis with Voice of OC.
If Shea is found to have broken the law, the FPPC could fine her up to $5,000 per violation.
And there’s this story: https://voiceofoc.org/2016/05/irvine-councilwoman-wont-respond-to-rumors-about-consulting-gig/
From that story:
The agency launched its investigation in response to a Voice of OC article published last December revealing Shea’s emails and texts to staffers in the planning department with special requests for KIA, including the approval of construction plans and permits. She specifically asked for KIA’s requests to be expedited “as soon as possible.”
Under the state Political Reform Act, it’s illegal for an elected official to use his or her position to influence governmental decisions that could benefit sources of income. The FPPC investigation would focus on “use of your position to influence city staff on behalf of KIA Motors, a source of income to you, in violation” of the law, a Jan. 12 FPPC letter to Shea states.
Shea for years has disclosed KIA as a source of income, but the nature of her work has always been something of a mystery. On her personal website she stated she does “government relations” work for the company; and she only reluctantly told a reporter that her work included “community relations,” assisting with donations to public agencies, and unspecified “immigration issues.”
Bob Stern, co-author of the 1974 Political Reform Act, which governs conflicts of interest, said previously that Shea might be in violation of the law. However, whether the FPPC would enforce the violations depends on the answers to certain questions.
“How much is she being paid, and how much is the decision worth?” Stern had said.
Shea previously denied being paid to influence Irvine officials, arguing that she was merely contacting staffers for information about KIA’s requests, a service she said she would perform for any business in town that asks for her help.
“I do this for any business that contacts me, any citizen that contacts me,” Shea had said.
Adam Elmahrek has since moved on to the LA Times, but nice to see his work on this story will finally arrive at an outcome.