June 13, 2024

IE COMMUNITY NEWS

El Chicano, Colton Courier, Rialto Record

California FPPC Clears Rialto Councilmember Andy Carrizales from Conflict of Interest Accusations Amidst Pepper Avenue Warehouse Controversy

3 min read

Mayor Pro Tem Andy Carrizales (left) says he garnered an opinion from an attorney prior to voting on the matter in April 2023, to which Councilmember Joe Baca Sr. (right) alleged to IECN in June 2023 that Carrizales likely has a stake in the Rialto property neighboring Frisbie Park.

California FPPC has ruled in favor of Rialto Mayor Pro Tem Andy Carrizales, dismissing allegations of a conflict of interest related to the Pepper Avenue Specific Plan. The decision comes after a thorough investigation prompted by accusations from Rialto Councilmember Joe Baca Sr. and an anonymous complaint.

The controversy began on April 25, 2023, when Carrizales voted on the Pepper Avenue Specific Plan. Baca Sr. subsequently alleged that Carrizales had a stake in a property located a few hundred feet from the proposed development, implying a potential conflict of interest.

On June 21, 2023, an anonymous complaint echoing Baca Sr.’s allegations was filed with the FPPC. Days later, a sworn complaint by Lupe Camacho, an employee of San Bernardino County and Special Project Manager for County Supervisor Joe Baca Jr., was submitted to the FPPC, using the exact wording of the anonymous complaint.

Carrizales, however, has vehemently denied these allegations from the start. “I sought legal advice regarding the vote on the Pepper Avenue warehouse, and I have no conflict of interest voting on that project,” he said. “My mother-in-law owns the property my family and I live in. Therefore, I have no conflict of interest or financial interest.”

The FPPC, after a comprehensive review of the complaint and evidence provided, found no evidence to support these allegations. In a public letter, Christopher B. Burton, Acting Chief of the Enforcement Division, stated that Carrizales “does not have a disqualifying conflict of interest in decisions regarding the Pepper Avenue Specific Plan Amendment and Industrial Development Project.”

Burton further clarified the FPPC’s decision, explaining, “Under the Political Reform Act, a public official has a disqualifying conflict of interest in a governmental decision if it is foreseeable that the decision will have a financial impact on their finances or other financial interests. Financial interests include those of a public official’s immediate family members. The Act defines ‘immediate family member’ as the spouse and dependent children of a public official.”

“Since it does not appear that Andy Carrizales or his immediate family members have an ownership interest in the subject property, Council Member Carrizales does not have a disqualifying conflict of interest,” Burton wrote.

Carrizales expressed relief at the FPPC’s decision but also voiced disappointment at the actions of his fellow council members. “Our community and residents deserve better,” he said. “To viciously attack my family and my wife’s mother is just wrong! This was done for nothing other than political agendas.”

Carrizales also pointed out the involvement of Baca Sr.’s son, San Bernardino County Supervisor Joe Baca Jr., in the allegations. “It’s shameful that two seasoned political figures took it upon themselves to attack me and that a San Bernardino County Supervisor would have his staff play along with this injustice,” he said.

Last month, Baca Sr. questioned Carrizales for participating in the vote, citing potential conflicts of interest due to their close residential proximity to the proposed warehouse. He also questioned the project’s economic benefit: “We don’t know how many employees, tenants, or if it will even bring jobs.”

Carrizales responded, “I believe Baca is upset because the developer didn’t give him a donation to the Joe Baca Foundation! The foundation that was paying all of his family members until they were exposed; now that’s a financial conflict of interest! I’ve told Baca if he believes that I am breaking the law or have some financial gain from this project to report me to the FPPC.”

The FPPC’s ruling has effectively cleared Carrizales of the allegations, reaffirming his position and right to vote on matters related to the Pepper Avenue Specific Plan. The decision also serves as a reminder of the importance of due process and the role of regulatory bodies like the FPPC in ensuring the integrity of the public office.

*A comprehensive update with a full-scope of perspectives from this article can be found here.

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