The Oakdale Redevelopment Agency Oversight Board is asking city legal staff for clarification if Mayor Pat Paul’s self-appointment to the panel is a conflict of interest. One board member is taking it beyond that and going to the Fair Political Practices Commission for a decision.
During their Aug. 8 meeting, Board Member Farrell Jackson pointed out that he perceived a potential conflict of interest with Pat Paul serving as a member. Jackson said the argument arises out of Paul, as Mayor, sitting on the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency and making recommendations, then approving those recommendations while on the oversight board.
Jack Alpers, chairman of the board, stated that the potential conflict could also exist with him as an Oakdale Irrigation District (OID) Board Member and another oversight board member, Stanislaus County Supervisor William O’Brien.
Jackson, who was mayor prior to Paul and lost to her in 2010, felt the others weren’t as closely related to redevelopment agency decisions as she was.
During discussion of a $350,000 payment to OID made by the agency and later voided by the state, Jackson questioned how the money was going to be made up.
Oakdale Finance Director Albert Avila who sits on the board stated it would have to come from somewhere and was not sure if it would be from the city general fund or a depleted economic development account.
During the vote on the agenda item about the cost reimbursement of the $350,000, Jackson abstained due to wanting the conflict of interests clarified first.
After the meeting O’Brien said if a conflict was declared many boards in the area would have the same issue, referring to the cities of Waterford and Patterson.
“It would be three less meetings I would have to attend,” O’Brien said.
“Just for the integrity of the board these things need to be checked,” Jackson said afterwards. “If there is a conflict, it’s not a good thing for the public.”
Jackson emphasized this issue was not only his concern but that of others who had been contacting him about Paul serving as both one who makes recommendations and then has authority of oversight.
“The mayor takes a $350,000 check to OID and then is on the board that subsequently approves it,” said Jackson after the meeting. “How is that right?”
Paul said elected officials are allowed to sit on the oversight board. When the appointments came up she asked the city attorney, Tom Hallinan if she could appoint herself and was told there was no conflict.
Paul has a history of civic involvement previously serving as a county supervisor and active in community volunteer groups as well as starting the farmers market. In addition to mayor, she also serves on the planning commission.
Paul was not pleased with Jackson’s conflict of interest accusation.
“Because of his lack of leadership, we’re in the situation we’re in,” Paul said about Jackson’s previous term as mayor. “I’d like to see him start doing something positive. Don’t stand at council meetings and shake your finger at me. Move on, stop, do something positive.”
Paul explained that the $350,000 was in the redevelopment agency account and the money was used to pay for East F Street improvements. The agency paid OID for underground pipe realignment and improvements that were required. Later, the state said the funds could not be used or that project.
“If she (Paul) wants to come after me about my term as mayor, she can,” said Jackson when informed of Paul’s comment. “It’s not about me and Pat. I have been asked this question (conflict of interest) over and over by the community. I can’t give an answer. Let’s get this clarified.”
Jackson said he has contacted the Fair Political Practices Commission about Paul’s serving on the board and expects a reply soon.