FPPC fines San Simeon official, further action pending

Charles Grace

By KAREN VELIE

The California Fair Political Practices Commission voted Thursday to penalize San Simeon’s general manager for the “inherent harm” he did to the community by sitting on both sides of the negotiating table.

In 2016, as San Simeon Community Services District’s general manager, Grace negotiated a contract with Grace Environmental Services, a private company he owns. Grace then used his position as the head of the district to funnel money to his private company.

On Thursday, in a precedent setting vote, the commission ordered Grace to pay a $4,500 fine and take ethics training. This was the first time the FPPC has penalized a public official for a Government Code 1090 violation (contract conflict of interest law).

The commissioners also discussed the proper process for voiding Grace’s 2016 contract with the district. A contract made in violation of Government Code 1090 “is void, not merely voidable.”

Even so, the Commission agreed to bring back for clarification in January, whether or not voiding the contract requires a civil court action.

The district is entitled to recover any compensation that it paid through the voided contract, according to the Government Code. If the contract is voided, the district could recover the $393,734 in compensation it paid Grace from Jan. 2016 through Dec. 2020.

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