|The Lookout Letter to the editor|
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February 1, 2021
Jeff Segal has the Oscar de la Torre conflict of interest issue wrong ("LETTERS -- De la Torre's Exclusion Marks Sad Day for Santa Monica," January 28, 2021).
The City Council simply followed the law when it voted on January 26 to exclude de la Torre from Council deliberations on the lawsuit challenging the City’s system of at-large City Council elections.
The conflict issue is quite simple. Mr. de la Torre’s wife, Maria Loya, is a plaintiff in the election lawsuit. And Mr. de la Torre himself was a plaintiff in the lawsuit, in his role as President of the Pico Neighborhood Association (“PNA”), from its filing in 2016 by attorney Kevin Shenkman until shortly after his election to the City Council in November 2020.
In accordance with the common law conflict of interest doctrine, the City Council correctly decided that Mr. de la Torre is legally prohibited from participating in City Council deliberations and decision-making in the Loya/PNA lawsuit.
The City Council’s decision had nothing to do with racism (as alleged by Segal) or with de la Torre’s views on the public policy issues raised in the lawsuit concerning whether we should elect the City Council in at-large or district elections.
Other Councilmembers (Brock and Parra) share de la Torre’s views on these issues, yet no one has sought to exclude them from participating as Councilmembers. And de la Torre is free to continue expressing his views on the issues raised in the lawsuit as he will no doubt do.
But de la Torre is not free to crash the City Council’s confidential deliberations concerning the PNA/Loya lawsuit because, to paraphrase Mayor Himmelrich’s football analogy, he is coaching (or playing for) the opposing team (Loya/PNA) and thus does not belong in the City Council’s huddle ("Council Votes to Exclude de la Torre from Closed Sessions on Voting Rights Case," January 26, 2021).
It is unfortunate that some who support Mr. de la Torre politically have chosen to defend the indefensible here. It does not require much imagination to predict where these same de la Torre defenders would stand if another Councilmember sought to participate in a lawsuit brought against the City by their spouse.
Santa Monicans for Integrity in Government
Editor's note: The organizing committee for Santa Monicans for Integrity in Government includes Judy Abdo, Jason Islas, Chris Harding, Tom Larmore, Debbie Mulvaney and Joe Pertel
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