News

East Palo Alto official fined for conflict of interest

State agency fines Councilman Larry Moody $3,000

East Palo Alto City Councilman Larry Moody has agreed to pay $3,000 in a conflict-of-interest case, after voting to award a grant to a nonprofit organization that employs his wife, according to documents filed by attorneys for the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Moody voted during a City Council meeting on Nov. 6, 2013, to award the $77,000 grant to New Creation Home Ministries and Able Works, where his wife, Lisa, is a parenting-class coordinator.

In doing so, he violated the Political Reform Act, according to the stipulation-and-order agreement between Moody and the commission. The act prevents a government official from making, participating in making, or attempting to use their official position to influence any governmental decision in which the official has a financial interest.

Moody's wife began working for New Creation on February 17, 2011, and was employed there when Moody voted for the grant. New Creation paid her income totaling $2,992.54 in 2011, and $4,152.62 in 2012, attorneys noted.

During the Nov. 6, 2013, City Council meeting, Moody offered an amendment to a motion on Policy and Action Item 21 to pull $26,333 in funding from one recipient, Cassey and Grupo Palo Alto, and split the total $163,333 in grants between two collaboratives: Drew Health Foundation, Inc. and East Palo Alto Boxing Club; and New Creation Home Ministries and Able Works. He later withdrew the amendment, and the funding was approved as originally proposed. After a discussion, he voted to award a $77,000 grant to New Creation Home Ministries and Able Works.

The City Council subsequently voted to rescind the decision on Feb. 4, 2014, after learning of Moody's conflict.

Attorneys for the FPPC wrote that Moody should have known his involvement in the decision was a conflict of interest, given the financial implications for this family.

"Making a governmental decision in which an official has a financial interest is one of the more serious violations of the Act as it creates the appearance that a governmental decision was made on the basis of public official's financial interest," the attorneys noted.

The agreement means that Moody waives the right to an administrative hearing to determine his liability, which could have cost him legal fees in addition to any punitive decision.

Moody could have been fined a maximum of $5,000. The agreement is in line with fines for other similar violations, the attorneys noted.

The commission will vote on whether to accept the agreement at its Oct. 16 meeting.

Moody could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Comments

6 people like this
Posted by Makesmemoody
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 8, 2014 at 3:57 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Leif Erickson
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 8, 2014 at 5:54 pm

I'm happy to see this resolution with the FPPC and the East Palo Alto City Councilman. I have great respect for Larry Moody as a long-time community leader in East Palo Alto. He has a heart for his community and brings a lifetime commitment to public service. Despite recent turnover in City Manager and other City staff, I am glad to see the City has now tightened up their process of instructing new Council members on the need for extreme caution to recuse themselves from any votes where conflict of interest might be perceived.

I know that the City of East Palo Alto now requires any nonprofit who requests City grant funds to sign a Conflict of Interest Certification that they are aware of and will comply with State and City government codes that are quoted in detail.

There has been much useful learning on the part of elected leaders, City staff and community organizations so this kind of error won't happen again.

Leif Erickson

Barron Park neighborhood


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