PINOLE -- A Pinole councilman says he has had a business relationship for several decades with the city's garbage hauler. But Councilman Phil Green's financial interest in issues related to Richmond Sanitary Service and its parent company, Republic Services Inc., does not rise to a level that would obligate him to report it on his state-mandated, annual Statement of Economic Interests, he told this newspaper.
Green recused himself Oct. 29 from a council discussion of a rate review application by Republic, saying he "may" have a financial interest in the issue, and, without elaborating, left the council chamber.
Pinole City Council agendas state that an official who has a financial interest that creates a conflict prompting recusal must identify that interest.
On Sunday, Green explained that he has "done jobs" with Richmond Sanitary Service since 1977.
"I take care of some of their fire equipment; that's what I do," said Green, who is sole proprietor of PDF, a Pinole-based business selling and servicing fire equipment, according to his latest Statement of Economic Interests, filed with the city clerk's office April 1. He reports no single source of income over $10,000, the threshold for reporting if the official owns 10 percent or more of a business.
Green said City Attorney Ben Reyes told him that as long as he made less than $500 or $600 a year from RSS, he could stay on the council dais and vote on matters affecting the company. But, Green said, "I looked at the billing, and it was more than that."
Reyes, in an email Monday, declined to confirm the statements attributed to Green; Reyes said he has recommended that Green seek an advisory opinion from the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), which regulates the reporting of financial interests among elected officials.
According to an FPPC booklet on conflict-of-interest rules, "You have an economic interest in anyone, whether an individual or an organization, from whom you have received (or from whom you have been promised) $500 or more in income within 12 months prior to the decision about which you are concerned." The booklet goes on to say, "You will have a conflict of interest only if it is reasonably foreseeable that the governmental decision will have an important impact on your economic interests."
Green had previously recused himself from RSS- and Republic-related matters, most recently the council's review on Sept. 17, of a post-collection contract between Republic and the West Contra Costa Integrated Waste Management Authority, to which Pinole belongs.
But he took part in some earlier council discussions, on May 15, 2012, and on Feb. 19, 2013, on the subject of post-collection contracts involving RSS.
Green said Monday he did not recuse himself on items that were informational, such as reports, as opposed to "when there's a decision to be made."
"If it's an action item, I'll recuse myself," he said.
But the FPPC, in its conflict-of-interest booklet, specifies that public officials with a conflict of interest must recuse themselves from both action and discussion items.
"Public officials ... must publicly identify in detail the economic interest that creates the conflict, step down from the dais and must then leave the room," according to the booklet, available at www.fppc.ca.gov. "This identification must be following the announcement of the agenda item to be discussed or voted upon, but before either the discussion or vote commences."
Green also said he worked over the past year with another company that did some work for Richmond Sanitary and Republic.
"I do less than $10,000 with this company," Green said. "More than $500 but less than $10,000."
Green's Economic Interests statement for 2012 reports income between $1,001 and $10,000 from International Fire Equipment, of Richmond, in commissions and for consulting.