Conflict of Interest

In this town, things are getting worse.  

They have scheduled an event titled “Lunch with El Cerrito’s Mayor and City Manager,” where members of the public join them to have a conversation with Mayor Gabe Quinto and City Manager Karen Pinkos on the latest happenings in the City of El Cerrito, and what’s next for the City coming up in 2023 and beyond.

There’s an ulterior motive for the November 3rd gathering.

  1. Gabriel Quinto’s seat is up for grabs on the November 8 ballot. If he loses, his term expires at the end of the year. Consequently, Gabe should not yet comment on what will happen in 2023.
  2. The City Manager comes dangerously close to violating the Conflicts of Interest and Ethics For Local Government Officials: Political Reform Act & Common Law Conflicts of Interest City of EI Cerrito dated September 2019. It may not be illegal, but it’s inappropriate to conduct a conversation about El Cerrito’s happenings outside of the Council Chambers just five days before the election.

The Political Reform Act states, “An official has a conflict of interest under the Political Reform Act when it is reasonably foreseeable that the decision has a material financial effect on an economic interest of the official or a member of their immediate family. A public official has a disqualifying financial interest if the decision will have a reasonably foreseeable material financial effect, distinguishable from the effect on the public generally, directly on the official or their immediate family, or on any financial interest of the official or his or her immediate family. (2. Cal. Code Regs, § 18700(a)”

The ICMA Code of Ethics with Guidelines for City Managers, tenet 7 “Elections of the Governing Body. clearly states that Members should maintain a reputation for serving equally and impartially all members of the governing body of the local government they serve, regardless of party. To this end, they should not participate in an election campaign on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for the governing body.

The City Manager, Karen Pinkos, has come under fire since the state of California released its first report in 2020 and most recently: Fiscal Health of California Cities. The Mayor has been one of her biggest supporters, publicly praising her hard work while leaving out the mediocre performance.

However, two other candidates have indicated they commit to transparency.   At least one of the candidates has committed to holding the City Manager accountable. Suppose Mayor Gabe Quinto isn’t reelected to the City Council. In that case, the City Manager could face accountability initiatives from the City Council regarding performance goals and objectives on the City’s current financial crisis, the lack of adequate public services from city departments or even her lack of transparency. Therefore, she has a financial interest in Gabe’s re-election.

Three weeks ago, you heard it here. The bottom line is that being in the bottom 3% (13 of 431) cities is not cause for celebration. Even with $20 million in new money ($14 million from Measure V real property transfer tax —  and $6 million from ARPA, round numbers) coupled with significant cuts in services, the City is doing very poorly. 

Gabe has interests too. He built his entire campaign on endorsements from electeds – most notably missing are electeds from neighboring cities. Moreover, his lone accomplishment relates to bringing Los Moles to El Cerrito. Unfortunately for city residents, he’s been on the Council for the last eight years, which happen to be the years of the City’s financial landslide to the crisis.

The luncheon is at the wrong venue. If the City Manager and the current Mayor wish to discuss the happenings in El Cerrito, the appropriate forum would be today’s November 1, 2022, City Council Meeting. But the agenda is silent on an update from the duo.

Vote by November 8, 2022, and vote wisely.

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