Update (12:08 p.m.): OCTA has cancelled its contract with Sloat Higgins.
Orange County transportation officials are expected to decide Monday morning whether to cancel their lobbying contract with a firm that recently agreed to a record-breaking fine for giving illegal gifts to lawmakers.
“I will not support writing a check to Sloat Higgins for lobbyist services,” Orange County Transportation Authority Director Todd Spitzer, who is also a county supervisor, said last week. “Hopefully they’ll be terminated on Monday.”
Kevin Sloat and his firm — Sloat, Higgins, Jensen & Associates — were recently fined $133,500 by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for illegally providing state legislators with liquor, wine, cigars, sports tickets and flowers.
Spitzer said he wants lobbyist Moira Topp to continue working for OCTA, provided she leaves her job at Sloat Higgins.
Director Jeff Lalloway, who is also an Irvine city councilman, agreed with Spitzer about canceling the contract, though other board members felt differently.
OCTA Chairman Shawn Nelson, who is also the county supervisors’ chairman, said the contract must be continued in order to keep Topp.
“Unless [Topp] quits, the only way to keep her is to have some relationship with this firm,” Nelson said.
Spitzer disagreed, saying emergency provisions exist to allow OCTA to contract directly with Topp.
A majority of OCTA’s executive committee agreed with Nelson, recommending last week that the lobbying contract be continued as long as Kevin Sloat doesn’t provide any services without their approval.
Sloat’s contract would still run through the end of November under that recommendation.
As officials gear up for today’s vote, a review of campaign records shows that Sloat Higgins clients have given at least $9,600 in contributions to support OCTA board member and county Supervisor Pat Bates in her bid for a state Senate seat.
Two of those contributions, totaling $2,000, were given on the same day last year.
They were provided by a Missouri-based pharmacy benefit manager, Express Scripts Holding Company, and the Northern California-based North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians.
They were two of the three contributions Bates received on June 4, 2013.
Bates and Sloat didn’t return messages seeking comment.
In an email over the weekend, an Express Scripts spokesman wrote that neither Kevin Sloat nor anyone with Sloat Higgins advised his company to contribute to Bates’ campaign.
“We have a long-standing relationship with Patricia Bates. She is a fair, balanced, considerate lawmaker who is good for California,” wrote Brian Henry of Express Scripts.
Bonnie Hale, treasurer of the tribal council of North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, declined to comment Thursday until the full council could speak together about it.
Bates’ state Senate campaign also received contributions from other Sloat Higgins clients:
- Anheuser-Busch, $1,000.
- Anthem Blue Cross, $2,000.
- Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, $1,000.
- Pacific Gas and Electric, $3,600.
Sloat’s clients were apparently less generous to OCTA board member Janet Nguyen, a county supervisor who is also running for state Senate, according to the review.
Nguyen received a relatively small $250 contribution from the student loan firm Sallie Mae.
Nguyen declined to discuss the contribution.
The meeting starts Monday at 9 a.m. Click here for some background on the issue.
Curious what else is happening this week? Click here to check our rundown at On the Agenda.
Please contact Nick Gerda directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.
Since you've made it this far,
You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.
Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.