The city of Tehachapi is trying to figure out if Councilman Kenneth R. Hetge should recuse himself on votes regarding Tehachapi Municipal Airport because he owns a business there.
The issue came up at the Jan. 7 City Council meeting as the council was deciding whether to request an advice letter from the Fair Political Practices Commission on whether Hetge could vote on any future decisions for the relocation of Taxiway A at the Tehachapi Municipal Airport.
The issue isn't over.
“The nature of his potential conflict could drastically effect the taxiway relocation,” City Attorney Tom Schroeter said during the Jan. 7 meeting. “We got an opinion from Richards Watson & Gershon that Mr. Hetge’s conflict would rise to the level of a 1090 conflict, but what’s called the Rule of Necessity would allow us to vote on it. If the Rule of Necessity doesn’t apply, you don’t get to vote on the taxiway relocation.”
Hetge recused himself from the vote on sending a letter to the FPPC. After he left the room, the remaining councilmembers seated at the time voted unanimously to send a letter to the FPPC.
Schroeter said Hetge advised him that any letter to the FPPC should come from the city, and not from him.
“I have business at the airport and must recuse myself on any issues going forward on this topic,” Hetge said at the Jan. 7 council meeting.
A document from Richards Watson & Gershon, on the opinion if Hetge would have a conflict of interest was not included in City Council agenda. The document was requested by Tehachapi News. However, the city said it could not be disclosed due to Government Code 6254(k), or the attorney-client privilege.
Schroeter recommended Hetge recuse himself at the Dec. 17 meeting, in case of a potential conflict of interest, while the firm Richards Watson & Gershon recommended that a letter should be sent to the FPPC seeking feedback on whether Hetge should vote.
One reason stated in the draft letter between city staff said, “According to a comment letter received from the (Tehachapi Airport) Hangar Owners Association, Councilmember Hetge’s business will be financially affected 'radically more' than other aircraft owners. Councilmember Hetge is a member of the (Tehachapi Airport) Hangar Owners Association.”
Hetge and his wife are listed in the letter as having a business on the airport called Recover Your Cub that has been operating at the airport for more than 10 years, that he and his wife both own six hangars and “provides aircraft rental services and aircraft maintenance services.”
City Manager Greg Garrett verified this information earlier in the meeting.
“Mr. Hetge has a business on the airport called Recover the Cub and he has a current business license,” Garrett said.
A draft of the letter from the city to the FPPC added, “The construction of the project may impact access between the airport’s runway and the hangars owned by the business. During construction, airplanes leaving the hangars owned by the business may be diverted south towards a diagonal taxiway which is a less direct route from the hangars to the runway than by way of existing Taxiway A. The impact on the business or on other airport users is not entirely clear.”
At the Dec. 17 City Council meeting, Schroeter advised Hetge to recuse himself before the FAA preapplication was discussed. Hetge said he was only notified a few minutes before the meeting and able to read just a few pages of the document. In open session, he requested the item be tabled as he wished to participate in the vote, but it wasn't tabled, so he recused himself.