Anaheim Negotiating With City Council Candidate’s Firm

A construction management firm that employs Anaheim City Council candidate Steve Chavez Lodge might soon enter into a services contract with the city, Voice of OC has learned.

According to city spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz, city officials are negotiating with a consulting team that includes Chavez Lodge’s firm, New Jersey-based Hill International, to perform an environmental review for the Anaheim Rapid Connection project, a planned 3.5-mile streetcar system.

Chavez Lodge works as Hill International’s director of public affairs.

The negotiations have drawn criticism from Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, who says that awarding the contract should be postponed at least until after the election. The City Council must approve such a contract, and Galloway says the potential arrangement creates the perception of a conflict of interest.

It is not yet clear when the contract would come up for council approval.

“Steven Lodge is not a City Council person, but he could be in the next couple of months. His company then would have a large contract with the city of Anaheim,” Galloway said.

Galloway argues that the arrangement is a potential conflict of interest because it places city staffers in the uncomfortable position of overseeing their employer’s firm. She also said that her charity, the Eli Home, received a $15,000 grant from the city for fiscal year 2012-13, but returned the money because of a perceived conflict of interest.

Chavez Lodge did not return a phone call seeking comment.

If Chavez Lodge is elected and the city awards the contract to Hill International, the situation wouldn’t be unprecedented in the city.

Councilwoman Kris Murray last year cast a council vote to approve a report by a subsidiary of Willdan Group, a consulting firm that employs her as its senior vice president. A good-government expert had said the vote was a “clear financial conflict” because had the council rejected the report, it would have been a vote of no confidence on the consultant’s work and could have led to the termination of the contract.

Chavez Lodge is one of nine candidates vying for two open council seats. He’s backed by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, the Orange County Business Council, a Disneyland-sponsored group known as Support Our Anaheim Resort and former Mayor Curt Pringle.