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Head of San Gabriel Valley government agency charged with four felonies

June 29, 2012 |  4:39 pm

The executive director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments surrendered to a judge Friday after prosecutors charged him with four felonies for obtaining grants that benefited a private firm he operates.

Nicholas Conway, 60, the agency's longtime head and a former Pasadena City Council candidate, was placed on leave last week by the agency and released on $100,000 bail Friday by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba.

In the complaint charging Conway with the four felonies, Deputy Dist. Atty. Dana Aratani alleges that he exploited his position as head of the public agency that coordinates efforts among 31 cities and other agencies in the area. Conway owns Arroyo Associates Inc., which manages the public joint powers authority.

According to prosecutors, under a management agreement between the agency and Conway’s firm, Arroyo got more money to manage specific state and county grants, which Conway obtained as executive director.

Aratani said the grant agreements added $143,000 in charges to the Council of Governments for one fiscal-year period.

Prosecutors allege that Conway violated a state law barring  public officials from having a financial interest in any contract made by them in their official capacity, or by any body or board of which they are members. Conway's next court date is July 23.

The Council of Governments was created by 31 cities, three county supervisors and three water agencies. In 2006, Conway was investigated for an alleged conflict of interest, but no charges were filed.

But earlier this month, a search warrant was served on Conway’s Pasadena home and Arroyo Associates, and several boxes of files were removed.

The charges follow a complaint submitted to the district attorney’s Public Integrity Division by San Dimas resident Gil Aguirre. 

Recently, the Council of Governments' governing board announced that it would pay $50,000 in a settlement agreement with Aguirre. He alleged that the group had violated the California Public Records Act and the Brown Act, withholding vital information from the public and discouraging public participation.

“The members of the COG Governing Board seem to have been content to run the organization like some form of secret society instead of a public agency, funded with public tax dollars,” Aguirre said

Walnut Councilman and former council President Tom King expressed concern in March about the financial relationship between the council and Arroyo Associates after two audits by the California Department of Transportation discovered grant mismanagement and an inadequate procurement process.

Caltrans asked the Council of Governments to return $89,262 of a $250,000 Gold Line grant. The September 2011 audit also found that the agreement between the Council of Governments and Arroyo Associates created a conflict of interest.


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-- Richard Winton