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Governor signs high-speed rail conflict-of-interest measure

September 28, 2012 |  1:54 pm

An illustration of a proposed bullet train station. Credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that requires state high-speed rail officials to disclose their financial investments and eliminates a loophole that created potential conflicts of interest for the project’s board members.

The legislation by Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) requires members of the California High-Speed Rail Authority board to comply with the financial disclosure and conflict provisions of the California Political Reform Act.

The measure further states that contractors and subcontractors, such as consultants, must disclose their financial interests if they are hired by the authority to conduct peer review studies.

“As we go forward with one of the biggest public works projects in the nation,” Hill said, “we need to ensure there is maximum transparency and prevent conflicts of interests.”

Hill said his measure, which was signed by Brown on Thursday evening and will take effect in January, stems from reports published in the Los Angeles Times in 2010 and 2012.

The first report revealed that authority board members were not required to comply with the same conflict-of-interest requirements of other governmental bodies, such as the California Coastal Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission.

The report disclosed that two board members received more than $10,000 in consulting fees from firms with financial interests in the high-speed rail project. Both were not required at the time to recuse themselves from participating in, discussing or voting on matters related to those companies. 

The other report revealed that a transportation expert hired to do an independent review of ridership forecasts had worked for the company that prepared the estimates and had a close relationship with one of the firm’s top executives.

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-- Dan Weikel

Photo: An illustration of a proposed bullet train station. Credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority

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