The Tehachapi City Council approved a preapplication request to the FAA for more than $4.9 million in grant funds during its Dec. 17 meeting, but not before one of the councilmen was advised not to vote on the matter.
The money, along with some funding from Caltrans and a small city match, would pay for the relocation of Taxiway A at the Tehachapi Municipal Airport.
Tehachapi’s City Council attorney, Tom Schroeter, announced just before discussion of the FAA placeholder design application for the relocation of Taxiway A that Councilman Kenneth R. Hetge was advised to recuse himself due to potential conflicts of interest.
“When the Environmental Assessment was reviewed, comments were made and by the (Tehachapi Airport) Hangar Owner’s Association. They made comments to the effect that Councilmember Hetge’s business was to be more injured or more potentially injured by this project than other hangar owners," Schroeter said.
Hetge’s business, Recover Your Cub, is on airport property.
Schroeter consulted with the law firm Richards Watson & Gershon and the firm advised that that a letter should be sent to the Fair Political Practices Commission seeking feedback on whether Hetge should vote.
However, the FAA preapplication needed to be voted on by council and sent to the FAA by the end of the month, Schroeter said.
He added, “There is no case law on this or there is no attorney general's opinion on this,” and recommended that Hetge recuse himself.
Hetge said he was only able to read a few pages of the document shown to him and discussed with Schroeter a few minutes before the City Council meeting started. He requested the item be tabled as he wished to participate in the vote.
“I would like to have the time to read that and understand what that says in its entirety. In addition, I would like also to send that to the FPPC for their guidance and input on whether I have a conflict," said Hetge.
Schroeter said that Hetge should be careful that he not put himself in a 1090 conflict. The government code states that any legislature members or city officers should not be financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity, said leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
City Manager Greg Garrett gave some recommendations, and said that the preapplication needed to be approved soon, due to the deadline at the end of the month. The city had just been notified a little more than a week earlier about the deadline, but an extension had not been verified by the FAA. If the preapplication was not approved by deadline, they could lose the grant funding, added Garrett.
After the discussion, the council voted in favor of the preapplication. Councilman Phil Smith, Mayor Pro-tem Susan Wiggins, and newly elected councilman Michael Davies voted in favor. Hetge recused himself. New councilwoman Joan Pogon-Cord was not present; she is to be sworn in Jan. 7.