Residents who volunteer to advise the city of La Cañada Flintridge on its investments were freed last week from a brief but onerous requirement to disclose their personal investments.
Four times a year, the La Cañada Flintridge Investment and Financing Advisory Committee gives City Treasurer Jeff Wang advice on financial policy.
In the past, members haven't been asked to disclose their own finances in order to illuminate any potential conflicts of interest. But in November the city amended its conflict-of-interest code as part of a required biennial review, and for the first time listed the members of the committee as “designated employees.”
That designation would have required committee members to disclose investments and income from businesses in the city, investments and income from land development or construction in the city, all their investments and income from banking or other financial institutions and investments in business that provide services or materials purchased by the city.
Last week, the City Council rescinded that designation.
Wang, who continues to be subject to the disclosure requirements, said the committee doesn't have the same level of benefits or responsibilities as the city's other commissions, and shouldn't be subject to the same burdens.
“These guys are mainly volunteers,” he said. “They're not paid, they're not involved in the daily decision making, so it made sense not to group them in” with members of other commissions.
Wang also noted that 80% of the city's investment portfolio is in government-sponsored agencies and financial instruments, leaving little exposure to conflicts for committee members.
“They're talking policy,” not particular investments, Wang said. “I understand why I have to [make disclosures]. I'm the one pulling the trigger on investments… [the committee] is really a step away.”
The current members of the committee are Keith Ban, James Poindexter, Brad Schwartz, Gene Stein and Kevin Tom.
Tom, who works for a private equity firm Wedbush Capital Partners, said that more disclosure would not have been bad, but that it seemed more than ought to be required.
“I don't mind it… it's never bad to have a little more transparency,” he said. “But we're just there to give [Wang] advice, so I think they made the right decision.”