Santa Monica City Council has determined that Councilmember Oscar de la Torre has a Common Law Conflict of Interest that disqualifies him from being involved in any closed session or confidential conversation concerning the City of Santa Monica’s Civil Rights Voting Act lawsuit.
De la Torre is also disqualified from voting on any decisions relating to the Pico Neighborhood Association and Maria Loya v. City of Santa Monica lawsuit after a 4-2 vote Tuesday evening. The decision was the result of more than an hour-and-a-half of discussion; during which, de da Torre asserted that he should not be barred from closed session meetings relating to the lawsuit because he has no ability to gain anything financially from the case. Maria Loya is Torre’s wife and prior to being elected, Torre was heavily involved in case against the city.
Councilmembers De La Torre and Christine Parra were the only no-votes Tuesday. Fellow Change Slate member Phil Brock recused himself after he voiced displeasure with the tone of Tuesday night’s conversation.
“Obviously, if the council votes to disqualify Oscar, he would have the ability to pursue that in court and that might be a quicker way to get an answer from the court,” City Attorney George Cardona said after he was asked by Brock how long would it take to receive a court’s opinion on the matter.
“I think that is impossible to predict,” Cardona added as he specified how a court may find that it’s not in a position to decide what is the correct action to take. “There has to be some action taken by the Council and challenge to that action…”
Councilmember Kevin McKeown proposed that de la Torre voluntarily recuse himself prior to the 4-2 vote but de la Torre refused, stating he would do so if the Fair Political Practices Commission or courts ruled he should.
“So, we are voting to determine that Mr. De La Torre has a Common Law Conflict of Interest that disqualifies his involvement in any closed session or confidential conversation concerning the Pico Neighborhood Association and Maria Loya v. City of Santa Monica,” Mayor Sue Himmelrich said before the vote.
Councilmembers have since gone into the closed session. Tuesday’s meeting is currently being streamed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMAGtpS1Ro0.