An independent review of Long Beach City Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce’s sources of income and her votes while on the panel has determined she violated the city’s conflict-of-interest policy.
A summary of the review, obtained by the Press-Telegram, was sent Friday, Sept. 6, from City Attorney Charles Parkin to members of the City Council, along with City Manager Pat West and Assistant City Manager Tom Modica.
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Pearce said in a statement that she applauded the review.
“I do applaud this new level of close scrutiny of council conflicts as a critical step forward for the city,” she said. “The relaxed atmosphere of the past has led to many questionable decisions and practices, doing a disservice to all Long Beach.”
According to the City Attorney’s document, which outlined an investigation completed by the law firm Best Best and Krieger, Pearce failed to disclose $11,222 of income in 2018 from a business owned by Daniel Zaharoni, the development manager for the Queen Mary’s operator, Urban Commons Queensway.
This year, she also received $30,000 from a separate retail cannabis company controlled by Zaharoni.
Because of both sources of income, the report found, Pearce should recuse herself under the Political Reform Act from voting on anything impacting the Queen Mary or the cannabis industry.
That recusal should last for 12 months after the most recent payment, the document said.
But Pearce participated in a March 12 vote on the proposed development of a gondola system from downtown Long Beach to the Queen Mary. With the lawyers’ findings, her vote could now be nullified. But, as the vote was unanimous, it would not have an impact on the council’s decision that day to move ahead with an aerial tramway study.
In addition to that lapse, Best Best and Krieger found that her statements of economic interest reflected lower levels of income from both companies than she actually received.
Because Pearce did not “make every effort to avoid a conflict of interest,” the report noted, her actions violated the Long Beach Municipal Code.
Additionally, she violated the Municipal Code by conducting consulting work without a business license, the document said.
Parkin, for his part, did not respond to a request for comment on whether Long Beach would pursue any action against Pearce because of those violations.
Pearce, in her statement, attributed the former infraction to “technical issues” with updating her economic interest statements. But, she noted, that paperwork is up to date.
“We have requested this be updated in the memo right away,” Pearce said.
Overall, she said, she was grateful for the City Attorney’s work and cooperated to the best of her ability.
“As is always the case with every elected official,” she said, “I will continue to weigh potential conflict of interest issues on a case-by-case basis and will recuse myself when appropriate.”