Agency urges city to consult state Attorney General; McEachron says no
May 07, 2011 8:05 PM
Brooke Edwards

VICTORVILLE • The Fair Political Practices Commission told the city there is “maybe” a conflict of interest involving Mayor Pro Tem Rudy Cabriales and his connection to the High Desert Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, urging the city in a letter sent this week to consult the state Attorney General’s office.

“I think this issue is over and done with,” Mayor Ryan McEachron said Friday, unwilling to forward the complaint himself on behalf of Victorville. “I think what Rudy is doing to address it is the appropriate thing to do and it allows us to move on.”

Cabriales has voted in favor of a number of city contracts with companies that have made donations to the Hispanic chamber. His wife, Vickie Cabriales, is CEO of the chamber and receives a commission on top of her annual salary for each sponsorship she brings in.

Government Code 1090 states that “city officers or employees shall not be financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity,” directing officials to recuse themselves from voting on or discussing any contract that could impact them financially.

Victorville asked the FPPC for advice on the issue April 4. A letter from the city attorney’s office stated there was concern that Vickie Cabriales “may have promised prospective sponsors that if they provided a sponsorship to the chamber, she would ensure that Councilmember Cabriales would vote to approve any contracts the sponsors might have before the City Council” — a charge both Vickie and Rudy Cabriales denied.

Cabriales said Friday that he’d reviewed financial records and sponsor lists for the past 2 1/2 years, and said he didn’t find a single example of a time when the sponsorship amount would have reached the minimum threshold needed to qualify as a conflict of interest.

In general, state law dictates that there is a conflict if the official receives $500 or more in compensation. Since Vicki Cabriales receives 10 percent commission, and her husband would be credited for half of that, a donor would generally had to have donated $10,000 to make Rudy Cabriales conflict out of a vote.

However, Deputy District Attorney John Goritz with San Bernardino County’s Public Integrity Unit said there are some exceptions to that minimum-threshold rule, though he couldn’t comment on this particular case.

Out of an “abundance of caution,” Rudy Cabriales said he discussed the issue with his wife and they decided she would go to the chamber’s Board of Directors and ask that they restructure her compensation to eliminate her commission.

Cabriales said he doesn’t see the point in passing the complaint to the Attorney General’s office, since he believes the agency would go through the same review process he did and come up with the same result.

Councilwoman Angela Valles said she’s frustrated with that response and, while she’d rather it come from the council, she plans to personally ask the Attorney General to look at the case.

“There were certainly statements in the FPPC’s letter that raised concern,” Valles said. “My priority is on moving forward and doing what needs to be done to get our city back on the right track. However, if it is found that decisions were made by any council member that were not in the interest of our citizens, then they have a right to know that their trust has been betrayed.”