At the urging of Councilwoman Rosa Lee Measures, the City Council decided early Tuesday morning to consider changing the way it handles potential conflicts of interest.
The Ventura council voted 4 to 3 to study a policy in which the city would pay for appraisals of council members’ property to give them greater flexibility to vote on issues.
Legally, council members are required to abstain from voting on projects that fall within 300 to 2,500 feet of their property and that could either hurt or enhance their property values.
But some city leaders say the regulation is overly restrictive, forcing them to opt out of key council decisions that may not have an effect on their personal investments.
“Frequently, we as council members can’t exercise our responsibilities because of a perceived or purported or real conflict of interest,” said Measures, who recommended the change.
Measures has been forced to abstain from issues in the past because her family owns land around the city.
She cannot vote on a proposed minor league baseball stadium project known as Centerplex, for example, because her family owns a storage company near the proposed site.
“How would you feel about having to abstain from megaprojects such as the mall [expansion] or Centerplex?” she asked her colleagues.
But Councilmen Steve Bennett, Gary Tuttle and Jim Friedman argued that abstention is one of the rules council members accept when they run for office.
And they said they oppose spending city money on property appraisals estimated to cost $1,000 to $2,500.
“I don’t think it is a good use of taxpayer dollars,” Bennett said.
The appraisals would evaluate a council member’s land as well as how a proposed project would affect it.
Councilmen Jim Monahan and Ray Di Guilio and Mayor Jack Tingstrom voted with Measures to support the recommendation to study the appraisal idea.