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Councilman to Vote Despite Dispute

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Councilman Bernardo Perez said Friday he will participate in a key vote on the Hidden Creek Ranch housing project next week despite questions raised by project opponents about a possible conflict of interest.

“I have participated and will participate,” Perez said. “There is no conflict of interest. There’s no foreseeability for a conflict of interest.”

He also said he does not plan to contact the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission to ask for advice as project foes requested.

After eight years of debate, the council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on plans for Hidden Creek Ranch, a 3,221-home project that could increase the city’s population by one-third.

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Noting that Perez’s wife, Victoria, is a real estate agent for Troop Real Estate in Moorpark, the Ventura-based Environmental Defense Center earlier this month asked the city to investigate whether Perez has a conflict of interest that would bar him from voting on Hidden Creek.

Some residents have said being associated with the real estate business while a council member is especially problematic in Moorpark, where development is an overriding issue.

Moreover, Councilwoman Debbie Teasley last month announced she would not vote on Hidden Creek after a letter from the state commission strongly suggested her job as a Moorpark real estate broker would create a conflict of interest.

The center, which wrote the letter on behalf of the Moorpark chapter of the Environmental Coalition, requested the city ask the state commission if Perez might have a similar conflict.

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John Buse, the center’s attorney and author of the letter, was unavailable to discuss Perez’s announcement Friday. And Hidden Creek project opponent Roseann Mikos, who heads the coalition, said her five-member board has not discussed what action it might take if Perez votes.

Councilman Chris Evans, however, praised Perez for his decision, saying project opponents have raised the conflict of interest question only to defeat Hidden Creek.

“The whole premise that Mr. Perez should step down after 10 years of superb service to the community is absurd,” Evans said. “It’s a last-ditch effort by those who want to circumvent the process. And I’m very, very pleased that Bernardo is not going to put up with it.”

Should Perez change his mind and abstain, only three council members would be able to vote on the Hidden Creek project. Two of those voting in favor of the project would be enough to approve it, according to Moorpark City Atty. Cheryl Kane.

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