School official under review by D.A.
Office looks into Santa Monica board member’s approval of contracts with firms tied to her husband.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office is looking into votes made by a Santa Monica school board member to approve contracts with companies that did business with her husband, a spokesman said.
The review by the office’s public integrity unit follows a Times report published Friday detailing how Maria Leon-Vazquez — a board member with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District — cast a series of votes benefiting the companies without disclosing that they had been paid consulting clients of her husband, Santa Monica Councilman Tony Vazquez.
The votes could have violated the state’s conflict of interest laws, former Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley has said.
A school district spokeswoman also announced that district officials are conducting their own investigation into the findings of The Times’ story. She emphasized that the Board of Education recognizes “the importance of conflicts of interest.”
“At this time, we are in the process of gathering information and facts related to the board’s and Maria’s votes and working with legal counsel,” district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said. “We will fully cooperate with any investigation regarding this matter.”
The Times reported that Leon-Vazquez voted to approve contracts with TELACU Construction Management and Keygent LLC, two firms that paid Vazquez to help pitch their services to school districts,
according to sworn testimony from the councilman.
Vasquez did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Times.
But in an interview with the Santa Monica Daily Press, Vazquez said that his wife’s votes to approve contracts with his clients were buried in thick lists of “consent calendar” items — a list of typically routine actions that is approved in one vote.
He told the paper his wife did not realize she was casting votes that benefited the companies.
Vazquez also defended his decision not to disclose his income from the companies on statements of economic interest he filed in recent years, saying that his attorney and the state Fair Political Practices Commission have advised him that if he and the companies aren’t doing business — or planning to do business — in Santa Monica, he does not have to disclose.
“As long as I’m not doing any business in the city [of Santa Monica], I don’t have to claim it,” Vazquez told the Daily Press.
The former mayor did not explain to the Daily Press why his wife neglected to include the income on a decade’s worth of disclosure forms.