Supervisor Seeks to Limit Transit Board’s ‘Revolving Door’

Orange County Supervisor Pat Bates is proposing a change that would end the ability of public members of the Orange County Transportation Authority to jump from a seat on the transportation board to lobbyist for a company trying to influence board policy.

The so-called “revolving door” practice was highlighted last month when Voice of OC reported that former OCTA board member Peter Buffa abruptly resigned from OCTA earlier this year and within weeks was greeting former colleagues in New York in his new position with the investment firm Barclays Capital.

State law makes it illegal for elected officials to try to influence former colleagues for a year after leaving boards like OCTA.

The intent of the 2005 law, according to a legislative analysis, is to “address situations whereby former elected officers and other officials return to represent clients who have business before or are seeking to influence policy decisions made by their former agencies.”

But a loophole in the law allows nonelected members to go from representing the public on one day to lobbying board members the next.

OCTA’s executive committee Monday will consider the proposal by Bates, who is the Board of Supervisors’ representative on the OCTA board. She and the other county supervisors are members of the executive committee.

Bates’ proposal would put the same restrictions on public members as are applied to elected officials. Local boards have the authority to enact more stringent conflict of interest provisions than are spelled out in state laws.

Earlier, state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) said he might sponsor statewide legislation to close the loophole.

Bates said she had heard about Buffa’s new job with Barclays Capital even before the Voice of OC article ran. She wants the OCTA to adopt its own regulation so that the change can be made quickly rather than waiting for the state to act.

“I don’t see any problem with the board members embracing it,” she said. “It’s good, accountable government.”