ORINDA -- A former city councilman has filed an ethics complaint against Orinda Mayor Tom McCormick, arguing that McCormick illegally participated in decisions about the city's downtown despite owning a home within 500 feet of the downtown area.
In the complaint, filed Thursday with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, Gregg Wheatland said McCormick's participation on a city task force that made zoning and planning recommendations for the downtown was a conflict of interest and therefore violated state law.
McCormick has denied any wrongdoing but declined to comment on the complaint until he had a chance to review it further.
He did say he has been advised that his actions did not violate FPPC regulations, and that he is waiting for advice from the commission regarding his participation in future council discussions on the downtown.
An election-year target of downtown redevelopment opponents, McCormick called the complaint an "unwarranted personal attack" and said Wheatland is twisting facts to advance a political agenda.
From 2007-09, McCormick served as chairman of the city's Planning Process Review Task Force, which in August 2009 presented to the City Council a number of recommendations for both the city's residential and downtown areas.
McCormick's home falls within 500 feet of the downtown block bordered by Camino Encinas, Camino Pablo and Moraga Way. It also is across the street from another area the task force report included but for which it did not make any recommendations.
The council has not taken action on any of the downtown recommendations.
Wheatland, who served on the council for 12 years before losing a re-election bid in 2004, said McCormick's presence on the task force is enough to constitute a conflict of interest.
"The law is very specific," Wheatland said. "It says that he's not supposed to participate in any agendized meeting that involves an issue in which he has a potential conflict."
McCormick said he was advised he did not have a conflict of interest because the task force dealt with issues involving the entire city, and no action has been taken on the recommendations.
He added that he was recently advised that, before the council begins formally discussing the matter, he should seek an FPPC opinion on whether he should recuse himself, something he said he requested last week. McCormick added should have sought that opinion before joining the task force in 2007.
McCormick recused himself last week from a discussion about a report dealing with the downtown.
FPPC officials had not returned a call for comment by Monday.