The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission has mounted an investigation into Oceano Community Services District Director Linda Austin concerning conflict of interest allegations. In a written complaint, activist Julie Tacker accused Austin of voting on multiple projects that could financially impact properties owned by Austin in and around the community of Oceano.
According to California law, a financial conflict of interest arises when a member of a government body makes a decision that could have a financial impact on the public official. The law requires officials to recuse themselves from voting on projects when they have a conflict of interest.
Tacker first reported the possible FPPC violations in January after reviewing Austin’s 2016 conflict of interest statement. In response, Austin told the FPPC that she had misreported her assets by listing properties that belonged to a relative.
Austin then amended her conflict of interest statement and the FPPC closed the matter.
A short time later, the relative of Austin’s passed away and many of the properties she had misreported were then under her ownership. Then in April, Austin filed her annual Form 700 (conflict of interest statement) listing those properties.
According to Tacker’s April 9 complaint, Austin has voted on multiple projects at locations in close proximity to properties she has an ownership interest following the change in ownership.
“The votes may benefit Austin’s property values, which would be a clear conflict”, Tacker said. “The votes took place after the death of her family members, when the properties were hers.”
After reviewing Tackers complaint, on June 19, the FPPC sent a letter notifying Tacker that the agency had opened up an investigation into her allegation of conflict of interests over mutiple votes Austin made on projects in the South County.
If found to have violated conflict of interest rules, Austin faces penalties for each violation ranging from a warning letter to a fine of up to $5,000.