Posted: Monday, March 10, 2014 12:08 pm | Updated: 7:39 am, Tue Mar 11, 2014.
By NICK GERDA
Orange County transportation officials fired their Sacramento lobbying firm Monday in the wake of a massive fine against the firm for giving illegal gifts to state lawmakers.
“Their violation goes to the very essence of what they do for us here, which is lobbying,” said Orange County Transportation Authority Director Jeff Lalloway, who is also an Irvine city councilman.
Lalloway led the charge to fire Sloat, Higgins, Jensen & Associates along with fellow Director Todd Spitzer.
“It’s just a horrible, horrible situation that we were put in,” said Spitzer, who is also a county supervisor.
The firm and its principal, Kevin Sloat, were recently fined $133,500 by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for illegally providing state legislators with liquor, wine, cigars, sports tickets and flowers.
It’s the largest-ever fine for violating state regulations on lobbyists. The FPPC serves as the state’s political ethics watchdog.
OCTA added itself to a growing list of clients who have dropped the firm in the aftermath of the revelations.
Board members voted 14-0 this morning to cancel their contract and fast-track the hiring of a replacement firm.
Directors Janet Nguyen, Greg Winterbottom and Pat Bates were not present for the vote.
Voice of OC reported earlier Monday that Bates has received more than $9,600 in campaign contributions from Sloat Higgins clients, including two on the same day last June.
Agency staff will now bring back options for quickly replacing Sloat Higgins at next Thursday’s meeting of the Legislative and Communications Committee.
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