ORINDA -- Voters will make their choice for City Council on Tuesday, but they won't know until nearly a week later whether one of the candidates is the subject of an ethics investigation.
The state Fair Political Practices Commission has 14 days to decide whether to act on an ethics complaint filed against Mayor Tom McCormick by former City Councilman Gregg Wheatland, an FPPC spokesman said.
The commission received the complaint Monday, said spokesman Roman Porter, meaning a decision on whether to open an investigation will likely not come until Nov. 8.
McCormick, seeking a second term on the City Council, has questioned the timing of the complaint and called it an "unwarranted personal attack."
Wheatland said Wednesday that the upcoming election had nothing to do with his decision. In the complaint, Wheatland said McCormick violated conflict-of-interest laws by serving as chairman of a city task force that made recommendations for the downtown area despite owning nearby property.
McCormick's home is across the street from the task force's downtown planning area and within 500 feet of a block for which it made zoning recommendations.
He has denied any wrongdoing. He said he has been advised his past actions did not violate FPPC regulations because the task force made recommendations for all parts of the city and the council has not taken formal action on the issue.
FPPC spokesman Porter said he could not comment on the complaint or the specific regulations that may be involved.
The FPPC received a request from McCormick on Oct. 19 for advice on whether he should recuse himself from future council discussions on the downtown, Porter said. That advice is due back to McCormick by Nov. 23, he added.
McCormick said Wheatland's sending the complaint to local media as well as the FPPC days before the election shows the filing is a personal attack and not legitimate.
"I have lived in the same property since 1995," he said. "If this were truly an issue, then the matter would have come up prior to a week before the election."
Wheatland said McCormick's recusal from a downtown-related agenda item at the Oct. 19 council meeting, and not the election, led him to file the complaint.
"It confirmed my belief that he should have recused himself much earlier," Wheatland said, "but I have been concerned with it over a period of quite a long time."