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Santa Monica Councilmember Vazquez Acknowledged Potential Conflict Existed

 
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By Jorge Casuso

November 14, 2017 -- Santa Monica City Councilmember Tony Vazquez acknowledged a potential conflict existed if his wife, School Board member Maria Leon-Vazquez, voted on contracts involving the firm he worked for, according to a deposition given in a voting rights lawsuit against the City.

In The November 2016 deposition, Vazquez testified that he had set up a meeting between an executive of The East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU) -- a nonprofit community development corporation that paid Vazquez between $1,000 and $8,000 a month over the past decade -- and Sandra Lyon, who was then the School District Superintendent.

But Vazquez said he never expected his wife, School Board member Maria Leon-Vazquez, to vote on contracts involving the firm, according to a transcript of the deposition.

This year, however, Leon-Vazquez voted to approve TELACU as an “on-call” contractor and cast votes for a contract to upgrade facilities at elementary schools worth up to $174,000, according to The LA Times.

The following testimony was given by Vazquez, who heads his own political consulting business, Vazquez and Associates, during a November 15, 2016 deposition taken by the plaintiffs' attorney Kevin Shenkman in the voting rights suit against the City.

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In the deposition Shenkman asks about a meeting he arranged between Lyon and TELACU officials.

Q. What was the purpose of that introduction?

A. Just that they wanted a meeting.

Q. For what purpose did they want a meeting?

A. Oh, I'm sure they wanted to try to do some business in the City -- in the school district.

Q. Uh-huh. They do school construction?

A. School construction.

Q. So they wanted to do school construction for the Santa Monica-Malibu School District?

A. I'm sure, yeah.

Q. Okay. Do you know what the outcome of that meeting was?

A. They're not working there.

Q. Okay. Was anyone else at the meeting between TELACU and Sandra Lyon?

A. Besides those two in it, no, not that I'm aware of.

Q. Your wife wasn't there?

A. Not at that one, no.

Q. Was your wife at other meetings?

A. Not that I was at.

Q. Do you know if your wife ever met with anyone from TELACU Industries?

A. I believe at the conference, yeah, CSBA (California School Boards Association) conference. The -- the, you know, receptions.

Q. Any other occasions?

A. That would -- that would probably be the only one, at the conferences.

Q. So when -- well, do you recall who from TELACU met with Sandra Lyon?

A. Yeah. It was Jay Bell, who works for them.

Q. B-e-l-l?

A. Yes.

Q. So the attendees of that meeting was Jay Bell, Sandra Lyon and yourself?

A. And I -- there was one other person from TELACU staff.

Q. Okay. Do you --

A. Another construction guy.

Q. Do you recall that person's name?

A. Not off the top of my head.

Q. Okay. Anyone else?

A. And I think there were some spouses.

Q. Your spouse?

A. No. It was the spouse of one of the other TELACU managers, I guess.

Q. Okay. What was discussed at that meeting?

A. It was actually more of a just get to know each other. They were actually talking a lot about music, to be honest with you. Trying to build a relationship.

Q. Anything else?

A. I think Jay might have brought up, you know, some of the stuff they've been -- they were doing, you know, in -- in other parts -- other districts throughout the -- the region.

Q. What other districts?

A. I think El Monte, Centinela Valley.

Q. Any others?

A. Those are the only ones that come to mind.

Q. Okay. So correct me if I'm wrong. When this meeting occurred, your wife is a
member of the Santa Monica-Malibu School Board, right?

A. Yes.

Q. Okay. Do you view that as a potential conflict?

A. No. Because, one, I wasn't pitching it. And actually at that meeting she wasn't there.

Q. Your wife wasn't there.

A. Yeah.

Q. Okay. But you were there.

A. Yes.

Q. And Sandra Lyon, Ms. Lyon -- because she's not a doctor, right? Ms. Lyon.

A. Ms. Lyon.

Q. She's my friend, personal friend. Ms. Lyon, she knew who you were; she knew who your wife was, right?

A. Yes.

Q. Okay. She knew that your wife, along with six other people, is responsible for making determinations as to her employment status, right?

A. Her -- whose employment status?

Q. Ms. Lyon.

A. Oh, yeah.

Q. You don't see a problem with that?

A. No.

Q. Okay.

A. Matter of fact, when we had those conversations -- when I've had those conversations with my wife, she said that, if it ever -- it never got that
far, but if it ever got to a point where it was brought before the board to vote, that she was going to recuse herself anyways.

Q. Right.

A. Just -- even though I think legally, in talking to their attorneys, they didn't see a problem. But she -- you know, more of a perception issue for her.

Q. Sure.

A. But never got that far.

 


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