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State lawmakers want bullet train board to face stricter conflict-of-interest disclosure rules

January 18, 2011 |  3:50 pm

Members of California’s High-Speed Rail Authority board would be subject to stricter rules for disclosing and avoiding potential conflicts of interest under legislation pending in both the state Assembly and Senate.

Similar bills written recently by Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) and Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) would require board members in charge of a proposed $43-billion bullet train project to follow procedures that now apply to the Coastal Commission, the Public Utilities Commission and other key state panels.

Specifically, board members would have to declare potential conflicts in plain language before a board discussion begins on any matter in which they have a disqualifying financial interest. They also would have to leave the room during deliberations on the matter.

The proposals follow a report in The Times that rail board chairman Curt Pringle and former member Richard Katz received tens of thousands of dollars from consulting clients with financial interests in the bullet train project. The pair had not always recognized or publicly declared potential conflicts during board discussions, The Times reported. Both officials said they had not mixed public duties with their private business interests.

The paper also found that, due to an oversight, the high-speed rail board was not included in a 2002 state law intended to make it easier for the public to know when officials on state panels have potential conflicts. The proposed bills, which require a two-thirds vote of each house for approval, would correct the omission.

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-- Rich Connell

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