California Attorney General: Richard Katz held incompatible offices

The California Attorney General released an opinion this week holding that two board members of the California High Speed Rail Authority had a special form of conflict of interest called incompatible offices. The opinion confirms what I had written in an earlier post regarding one of those board members, Richard Katz. See: Conflict of Interest: Richard Katz, L.A. County’s Local Voice on the Rail Authority Board, Holds Incompatible Offices.

Until December 1, Mr. Katz had been a member of the board of directors for the California High Speed Rail Authority, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), and Metrolink. Mr. Katz resigned his post on the Rail Authority effective December 1 in the face of public criticism by a variety of people and institutions including watchdog groups, newspapers, legislators, and fellow members of the Rail Authority.

The second Rail Authority board member holding incompatible offices is Curt Pringle. His position on the Rail Authority board is incompatible with his position as mayor of Anaheim and as a board member of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA). Mr. Pringle’s conflict of interest will be eliminated at the end of the month when his term as mayor and on the OCTA board expires due to term limits.

Bottom line:

  • This does not invalidate past decisions but does call into question whether Mr. Katz and Mr. Pringle were looking out for the interests of the state when acting as a Rail Authority Board member and were looking out for the interests of their local communities when acting in their capacities as appointed and elected officials with their respective local agencies.
  • The governor and incoming governor need to consider local interests when appointing new board members. Mr. Katz’s seat needs to go to someone of integrity who will listen and try to address local concerns and will not rubber stamp contractors’ proposals and plans without asking hard questions.
  • This does not resolve any issues related to their potential financial interests in decisions made while on the Rail Authority Board. Mr. Katz and Mr. Pringle both “have received tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from firms with financial interests in the $43-billion [high speed rail] project.” See: Rich Connell, High-speed rail leaders receive consulting fees from firms with financial interests in project, L.A. Times, October 31, 2010; and The Rail Authority is a troubled agency
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