Tait’s Conflict-of-Interest Double Standard

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?

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  1. Oh GAWD…you guys just can’t let it go.
    Don’t start about being “holier than thou” regarding conflict of interest issues.
    Boy, Pringle and Co. must be bellyaching and wants to open a fight that they can’t win!

    • You could try responding instead of just complaining.
      Maybe you can’t respond.

      • Whoever you are “Anaheim Insider”…I wasn’t complaining just making a statement.
        Some people just love to hide behind their names and play chicken little!!

        • So much complaining on so many blogs about names. Who cares? If someone makes a good point, who they are doesn’t matter.

          Here the point is that Tait is publicly showing he feels rules don’t apply to him. He cites conflict of interest rules as being irreproachable but suddenly, without explanation, disregards all past comments and takes position as an OCTA Director when he, within the last few months, has abstained on OCTA issues in Anaheim. How does this make any sense?

          There is no clean answer and I think that is what infuriates his supporters. I think Anaheim Insider does a great service in pointing this out. If it was anyone other than Tait, VOC would have these last two posts as their top stories and lead off lines for PBS.

        • Some people would rather blow smoke and complain than deal with the real point. I’d like to see you take a stab at explaining or justifying your hero’s double-standard.

  2. Don’t forget how the mayor avoided “conflict of interest” on the Angels …..he just transferred title of the property he owns near Angel stadium to his children. I wonder if they are able to manage that property without his input? FAT CHANCE. Why isn’t Adam at VOC “investigating” that?

    Why is mayor Tait so vociferous on the subject of the Angels when he knows that the MOU is not binding? Setting himself up to reap the benefits once he has sufficiently sabotaged the negotiations? Why isn’t this conflict being examined?

  3. TOTAL hypocrite Tom Tait is.

  4. Why don’t you also remind us of similar situations too and not just single out Tait who’s promised to abstain from any issues or votes involving his firm? Former public member Peter Buffa worked for RBF Consulting, a large engineering consulting firm (and rolled the position into a job with a large public finance firm). Director Pulido is in bed with Cordoba, the consultant who’s doing the Santa Ana streetcar “analysis”. And the biggest conflict of all — Lucy Dunn’s OC Business Council with former OCTA CEO Stan Oftalie on its staff once audited the OCTA Procurement group. Oftalie’s son had his fingers in the mix as well. Tait’s on the Board now because he’s _not_ Curt Pringle’s boy.

    • It’s OK for Tait to have a conflict of interest because others have had them? Is this the best Mayor Tait’s defenders can do?

    • If Tait has to abstain from as many issues as he should maybe it is time for him to leave the City Council and tend to the millions he has. There was a time I was a big Tait supporter, but alas we are seeing how absolute power corrupts…absolutely. Sad.

  5. I think as Mayor, he should be required to publicly tell us why he thinks it’s okay to sit on the Board of a public agency where he has a private business relationship.

    Because others do it is not a reason. I “Can’t wait to end Tait”…….the countdown to his election defeat has begun.

    It will be very interesting to see who in Anaheim supports him for Mayor again…..Spoiler Alert – it will be a very short list, a few democrats from outside of Anaheim, and Cynthia Ward.

    • A few democrats…try a handful of republicans. Tait has way to much money to be a democrat. Try research all the companies Tom Tait has, far more then just Tait and Associates…far more. Which is fine, unless it is causing Anaheim residents to suffer by all the abstaining he needs to do.

  6. Tait recused himself from items on last night’s council agenda pertaining to OCTA “because of a financial conflict” yet he voted to appoint himself as one of their fiduciary board members and take the seat from the mayor pro Tem who had been serving honorably in that seat for a year and has zero conflicts. How do you justify this? The other examples listed as conflicts in this commentary did not involve serving as a governing board member. I would love to see if Ryan Cantor, Cynthia Ward, and the band of liberal bloggers supporting this mayor can use their twisted logic to make sense of his actions last night.

    • Well well. Ask and get an answer. Imagine that. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/tait-538150-octa-board.html

      For the record, I have not written anything supporting “this mayor” nor have I ever attempted to make sense of his actions, pro or con. While calling my logic twisted or even liberal is your opinion to assert, your claim is false. Don’t lump my opinion in with others on the sole basis you don’t like what I have to say.

      But hey, if you want to push me over there, great.

      • What is answered? Claiming he wont vote on T&A issues is nice and legally required but the core issue here is how he feels he can’t vote on a single OCTA issue in Anaheim but then is still qualified to serve as a member of their Board of Directors. Politics aside, it’s just a question of how he reconciles what appears to be two totally divergent stances. An answer on that would be nice.

        • “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.

          The OCTA does not have a policy that would prevent Tait from serving on the board while simultaneously having a contract with the agency, Zlotnik said. However, Tait will not be able to get any new business from the OCTA as long as he’s serving on the board.”

          That’s fair use even though it’s on the other side of the paywall, right?

          Anyway, Jack– sounds like you want to have a conversation with the city attorney. E-mail is your friend!

          • A call might just be in order to clear this up. I still have trouble with the fact that the City Attorney thinks Tait has such a serious conflict that he should vote on no OCTA issues, Tait obviously respects that opinion based on his voting record, and then without explanation Tait takes a position on the OCTA Board. Just because OCTA doesn’t have an express policy in place doesn’t mean this doesn’t look off.

            When I asked for an answer I suppose I wasn’t clear about it. You explain his actions to not be illegal and thus acceptable. I would like to know his motivation for it. Just because he can legally do what he did doesn’t explain, to me, why he would apparently change his stance on conflict of interest w/o giving any explanation.

          • Ryan, this is what Tom Tait said only two years ago:

            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.

            Now he is saying is it OK for OCTA Director Tom Tait’s company to have a contract with OCTA. That is a direct contradiction of his own principles. It is situational ethics. It is hypocrisy.

            • I’m pretty sure the Director just said Tait would be ineligible for new contracts with OCTA. I don’t think his position on the board means what you think it means. It’s not like he can vote to give himself a raise.

              But hey, I agree it’s a shade of grey. Call it what you will.

      • Tait didn’t answer anything. He never even gave a reason for why he take the OCTA seat for himself. His claim that his OCTA contract isn’t a conflict-of-interest makes no sense given that he himself says it is a conflict-of-interest for him to vote on any OCTA item before the Anaheim City Council agenda.

        Tait’s entire position here is intellectually incoherent and hypocritical. Why can’t he just be honest about why he dumped Eastman?

        Where are Tait sycophants like Cynthia Ward and Greg Diamond asking that same question, after they demanded that the council majority “be honest” about why they took away the mayor’s authority to agendize items between meetings?

        What a bunch of hypocrites.

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