By Robert Haugh
At the League of Women Voters (LOWV) forum on October 5, Suds Jain said the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) changed the threshold for conflict of interest.
Because of that, Jain said that he can vote on important downtown developments.
When we asked him about it last week, Jain wrote “I think you can and should do your own research.”
Okay. So we did. Thanks to the help of FPPC staff we sorted it out.
We learned that Jain’s claim is false and he knew it was false three days before he made it.
Jain’s Conflict of Interest
The FPPC has a rule that government decision makers can’t vote on issues if they have a conflict of interest.
The FPPC told Jain in August that he could not vote on downtown issues because his home is located downtown.
The FPPC met on September 17 and changed a formula they use to figure out how many people in a city or district might have a conflict of interest.
The current law says that if a development or decision could have a “material financial effect” on more than 25 percent of residences in a city or district, then there’s really no conflict for any individual decision maker.
That’s because a “significant segment” of the public, not just a few people, could potentially benefit from a development or a decision.
On September 17, the FPPC lowered the threshold for “significant segment” from 25 to 15 percent.
Jain Makes False Claim
This rule change prompted Jain to make the following statement in his closing remarks at the LOWV October 5 forum:
“As a result I now plan to vote for and advocate for a new downtown as a City Councilmember.”
After doing more research, we learned that Jain is wrong. He still has a conflict of interest.
The number of properties that might see a “material financial effect” from downtown development is 14.7 percent. Jain’s house is one of them.
We also learned that Jain himself knew he did not meet the threshold when he falsely claimed at the LOWV forum that he no longer had a conflict.
On October 2, three days before the LOWV forum, Jain wrote the following email to City Attorney Alexander Abbe:
“I know staff had calculated 14.7% for D5 which means we still don’t meet the 15% number.”
City staff has not completed a recount at Jain’s request.
Neither City staff nor the FPPC has told Jain that he is free to vote on downtown issues.
Both still consider him to have a conflict and Jain is unable to vote on downtown issues even though he publicly said he could.