Community activists from Orange County sent complaints to the state attorney general this week, alleging that two prominent transportation leaders from Los Angeles and Anaheim have conflicts of interest because they sit on the board of the California high speed rail project while holding other public offices.
Tony Bushala, a Fullerton businessman, and Denis Fitzgerald, a mayoral candidate in Anaheim, are seeking an investigation of Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, the chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority board, and Richard Katz, a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member.
The complaints say Pringle and Katz are violating a state law that prohibits public officials from simultaneously sitting on boards, commissions or other government bodies whose interests are likely to clash. They noted an opinion from the Legislature's legal office, which concluded in April that a court would probably rule that Katz and Pringle hold incompatible offices — a finding that could force them to resign from one or more of their positions.
Katz and Pringle have denied any impropriety. They say their experience in local government has benefited the high speed rail authority as well as communities that would be affected by the $42-billion project.
If the attorney general gets involved, the office will analyze the complaints and the responses of Katz and Pringle. Then, the attorney general must determine whether it is in the public interest to send the matter to a court for a decision.
Earlier this week, Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, a watchdog group in Palo Alto, called on the attorney general to look into the situation. Last spring, state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D- Long Beach), who chairs the Senate's transportation committee, also questioned whether the high speed rail officials had conflicts of interests because of their service for other government agencies.