School of­fi­cial un­der re­view by D.A.

Of­fice looks into Santa Mon­ica board mem­ber’s ap­proval of con­tracts with firms tied to her hus­band.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Adam Elmahrek and Ben­jamin Oreskes

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.

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