Council punts on placing moratorium on commercial evictions

 

.

By Jeffery Weinstein
.
Editor’s Note: This contains an email string from a citizen of Ojai who is concerned about the Council recently enacted regarding a moratorium on commercial evictions.  Personal information has been redacted.  Communications between citizens, who give their permission, and officials is not confidential.  We have also placed Mr. Weinstein’s query first and the City Attorney’s reply below, unlike typical email strings.
.
Hi Citizens Journal, on 4/26 I sent an email to the Ojai City Council, City Manager (James Vega) and City Attorney (Matthew Summers) about Ojai City Councilman William Weirick’s failure to recuse himself from a matter in which he had an obvious conflict of interest (please see 4/26 email below).  Also see the City Attorney’s 4/28 response directly below, which is the most convoluted (“intricately folded, twisted, or coiled”) explanation ever I heard!  
.

From: Jeffrey Weinstein
Sent: Sunday, April 26, 2020 9:52 PM
To: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; Greg Grant <[email protected]>; James Vega <[email protected]>; [email protected]

.
Subject: 4/24/20 Ojai Valley News: “Council punts on placing moratorium on commercial evictions”
.
The 4/24/2020 Ojai Valley News reported “At its April 14 meeting, the Ojai City Council narrowly decided not to enact a moratorium on commercial evictions during the COVID-19 emergency.  The vote was split 3-2 with Councilman Ryan Blatz and Councilwoman Suza Francina dissenting”.  Councilman William Weirick opposed the moratorium in part, he said, because some tenants are “already looking to game the system”.  “He said a moratorium could interfere with negotiations between commercial property owners and their tenants”.
.
What was left unsaid during the 4/14/2020 City Council meeting and in the 4/24/2020 Ojai Valley News is that Councilman William Weirick is the owner of an approximately 12,675 square foot commercial property in the heart of downtown Ojai with an estimated 18 commercial tenants (including the Ojai Chamber of Commerce).  Property ownership is titled under the name ‘Weirick Properties’, whose website is ‘wpllp.com’, based in Monroe, Louisiana (probably to avoid paying California income tax).  Weirick Properties is in the commercial real estate business to “Own, develop, and manage a portfolio of commercial properties”.
.
While I owe Mr. Weirick no grudge owning and operating a commercial office building in Ojai, as City Councilman, he has no business voting on this matter due to his CONFLICT OF INTEREST.  Clearly, in this matter between commercial landlords and tenants, Mr. Weirick is voting in his self-interest, and legally, should have excused himself from voting because he has a an obvious conflict of interest, defined as:    
.  

2.26.020 City council members or mayor – Conflict of interest.

A city council member or the mayor has a conflict of interest when he or she has a substantial financial interest in an official action.
A. If the mayor or a city council member has a conflict of interest, he or she shall declare his or her conflict of interest to the council and ask to be excused from voting on, and any discussion of, the matter with which he or she has the conflict.
B. The mayor or, in his or her absence, the mayor pro tempore or other presiding officer, shall rule on a request by a city council member to be excused from voting on a matter because of a declared conflict of interest. The mayor pro tempore or other presiding officer shall rule on a request by the mayor to be excused from participating in a matter because of a declared conflict of interest. A decision of the mayor, the mayor pro tempore, or other presiding officer under this section may be overridden by a majority vote of the city council. (Ord. 2007-07 §2(part)) 
.
The current loss of confidence in our public institutions and political leaders is exacerbated by this state of affairs where a sitting councilman fails to disclose his conflict of interest, is allowed to vote despite his self-interest in the matter, and the local newspaper enables this public deceit.  Should the above information be inaccurate in any way, please let me know and I will apologize to all those concerned.  But at the very least, the City Manager and City Attorney must investigate what appears to be unethical and unprofessional behavior so that similar incidents are not allowed to happen again on the Ojai City Council.  
Sincerely,     
Jeffrey Weinstein, AIA
.
On Apr 28, 2020, at 6:18 PM, James Vega <[email protected]> wrote:
.
Thank you,
I have reviewed this matter with the City Attorney: This vote did not involve a conflict of interest because it impacts all commercial tenants and landlords equally, one side to the positive and one side to the negative, theoretically; but none affected more than any other and none affected specially apart from the impact on the rest of the public generally. A decision about a single property or zone would be different. 
.
James Vega    |    City Manager
[email protected]   |   (805)646-5581 ext. 102 
.
.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal
.
Jeffery Weinstein is a Ventura County resident and architect 

Get Citizensjournal.us Headlines free  SUBSCRIPTION. Keep us publishing – DONATE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *