Yorba Linda Councilwoman Jan Horton remains adamant in her belief that she can vote on issues closely related to a redevelopment area next to her home and said she will seek supporting legal opinions each time the issues are raised.
“It is our responsibility (as council members) to do what we can to be able to vote to the best ability that we can and that was the promise I made (when she ran for office), knowing I had the conflict,” Horton said Tuesday during a discussion at the Yorba Linda City Council’s regular meeting.
Horton lives within 500 feet of two pieces of property included in the city’s Town Center redevelopment project. As Voice of OC reported last week, the California Fair Political Practices Commission has launched an investigation into whether she has violated the state’s conflict of interest law.
The FPPC has already sent Horton a letter telling her she cannot try to influence decisions on proposals within 500 feet of her home.
But Horton persists. And the conflict issues have turned recent council meetings tense, with the councilwoman arguing with her colleagues and city staff over what she can and can’t vote on.
Just how Horton interprets the law was demonstrated during debate Tuesday night.
When the council was discussing what to do about potentially moving homes for a street widening project along Lakeview Avenue, Horton tried to keep the conversation directed to the west side of Lakeview and avoid talking about the east side. The west side isn’t a legal conflict for her. The east side of the street is. The far end of strawberry field on the east side is adjacent to her house.
Mayor John Anderson, an assistant district attorney who is at odds with Horton, referred a couple of times to “site 13” which is within the redevelopment area east of Lakeview and a problem for Horton.
At one point, Horton said she wouldn’t have a conflict if Anderson “stuck to the agenda.”
But Anderson began talking about what the city might do with the houses if it moved them and one possibility involved affordable locations within the redevelopment zone near Horton’s house.
“I’m going to recuse myself because you’re forcing the issue,” Horton said and got up and left the council chamber, as required by conflict laws.
“I’m sorry,” Anderson said. “I’m just trying to have an intelligent discussion.”
Horton later returned to the council chambers for a separate discussion about council members seeking legal advice. “I hate it and I’m insulted when people classify me as trying to get around a conflict,” she said.
“It’s not getting around a conflict but just keeping my promise to the community and doing what the community expects me to do…I find it disappointing that members of this council, purposely or not purposely, try to exclude me from discussions here.”
But Anderson read aloud the state conflict of interest law, which states that no elected official may “in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest.”
Anderson concluded: “The reason why these conflicts are so important is because you never want to have that appearance of impropriety.”
— TRACY WOOD
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