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Appearance of a Conflict Should Disqualify de la Torre

Dear Editor,

January 29, 2021,

I write, teach and speak about ethical practices and standards for CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents in the tax profession and taught ethics for accountants for several years in the UCLA Extension Certificate in Accounting Program.

I assume my opinions about ethical standards must be appreciated because by invitation I’ve spoken to lawyers and accountants at the most prominent professional conferences and institutes across the U.S. over the past 20 years and my articles have been published in virtually every major tax publication.

One standard that universally applies to professionals of all types, and clearly to those persons who hold public office, is the necessary requirement to avoid not only an actual, but the appearance of, a conflict of interest.

It is a standard that applies universally -- specifically, nowhere is there any exception to the rule for race or gender; an exception of that nature would itself be racist.

The simple fact that Oscar de la Torre’s wife is a plaintiff in a long and often bitter lawsuit against the City of Santa Monica creates -- by any reasonable ethical standard -- the appearance of a conflict of interest.

That alone should disqualify him from participating in the council deliberations where legal counsel has concluded that the common law prohibition is applicable.

That de la Torre’s wife had and has "standing" to sue the City implies that she has "skin in the game." By extension del la Torre has the appearance of a conflict.

Should a judge find differently is a path de la Torre can chose to follow. But, given the facts, it is more than just highly unlikely that a judge would ever find that the City acted with malice in excluding him from the process.

Jeff Segal’s attempt to play the race card in this matter is not only misguided, it is -- in today’s heated social environment -- inflammatory and breathtakingly divisive.

Here again, we see a liberal branding the views of those whose policy he disagrees with as "racists" ("LETTERS -- De la Torre's Exclusion Marks Sad Day for Santa Monica," January 28, 2021).

I share Robert Kronovet’s (shared by thousands) negative view of SMRR and have been writing about that long before many of today’s public critics entered the conversation ("LETTERS -- De la Torre's Participation Jeopardizes SMRR's Grip on the City," January 28, 2021).

But that’s no reason to ignore this obvious appearance of a conflict of interest. And Kronovet had the same recourse to the judicial process afforded de la Torre. He either chose not to pursue it or chooses not to inform readers of the outcome if he attempted to.

Kip Dellinger, CPA
Santa Monica

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