Schwarzenegger Reappoints Pringle to High-Speed Rail Board

As one of his last official acts, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Thursday re-appointed Curt Pringle to the controversy-wracked California High-Speed Rail Authority Board.

Pringle, who is chairman of the board, must lead the nine-member rail authority next year through a slew of problems related to how contractors for the $43 billion project are spending taxpayer money and whether, in fact, the Anaheim to San Francisco bullet train system is needed at all.

In the two years since voters approved using $9 billion in state funds to help launch the rail system, a series of official audits have faulted the authority for lacking even a basic business plan, unreliable ridership estimates and failing to oversee outside contractors who, among other things, were paying millions of dollars in bills without invoices.

Originally, the authority planned to include the Anaheim-to-Los Angeles leg in the first phase of construction, but Anaheim doesn’t have the money to adapt its proposed new rail station for high speed trains and federal officials wanted stimulus funds spent first in the Central Valley.

Pringle, a Republican, also faces strong opposition to the rail plan from within his own party where leaders of the new GOP majority in the House of Representatives have said they’ll halt spending for rail plans around the country.

Pringle, who also was mayor of Anaheim until he was termed-out this month, had his own problems this year with conflict of interest issues involving his roles on the statewide rail board and the city.

In a series of emails, he criticized rail contractors for their work with the city, leading the rail board’s director to question whether he was acting on behalf of all state taxpayers or just the city of Anaheim.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating Pringle and other board members for trips they took to Europe, although Pringle has said his trips were reported properly on state-required conflict of interest statements.

Schwarzenegger also appointed two new members to the board, Fresno developer Thomas Richards and Matthew Toledo of Malibu. Toledo is publisher of the Los Angeles Business Journal and chairman of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.