Betty Yee: Don’t exaggerate my role in a bad PPE deal. I acted ethically

A woan speaks into a microphone.
California State Controller Betty Yee speaks during a State Lands Commission meeting in 2016.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

To the editor: In early 2020, my siblings and I were caring for our 97-year-old mother, who had suffered health complications from a viral infection in her brain. She was intubated with a breathing tube twice during her lengthy hospital stay before being released to go home.

She was ever-present in my mind as COVID-19 hit and states engaged in bidding wars to obtain the masks and other equipment needed to protect front-line health workers and our most vulnerable.

It was through this frame of concern I viewed the world when I was introduced to an individual who said his company had personal protective equipment, or PPE, to make available to California. I connected him with the appropriate officials to make his pitch, with the expectation they would do their job of vetting.


The so-called private advice you speak of is no different from the tips on state contracting that my team and I would offer any small-business owner who joined our frequent free webinars.

I never had a financial interest in the success of the Blue Flame Medical contract, nor did anyone with whom I was affiliated. My only concern was making sure front-line health workers and other essential workers had the PPE they needed.

I have consistently maintained a policy of not commenting on pending litigation, so cases may be appropriately tried in courts of law, not public opinion. It is unfortunate that The Times used that against me in this instance to put me at the center of a story in which I was, at most, a peripheral character.

By your own reporting, I immediately ceased communication with Blue Flame when its co-founder’s character was called into question, and no state funds were expended. Your focus should rightfully be on those bad actors who would exploit a global public health emergency for personal financial gain.

Betty T. Yee, Sacramento

The writer is state controller of California.