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Morena to Resign from City Council

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

June 17, 2020 -- Greg Morena will resign from the Santa Monica City Council next Wednesday after learning his position prohibits him from renegotiating his restaurant lease with the City.

Albright restaurant -- the business his family has owned on the Santa Monica Pier for 40 years -- has been shut down since a coronavirus emergency was declared three months ago.

As a Councilmember, Morena said, it is illegal to renegotiate “with myself.” The choice came down to saving his business or staying on the Council, he said.

“Like so many small independent business, I have struggled over the last three months to protect my family and my employees and their families who work at my restaurant on the Pier," Morena said after being contacted by The Lookout Tuesday night.

"I have taken out loans and gone into the red to feed them, keep up their health insurance, and do everything possible to have jobs waiting for them once this crisis is over," Morena said.

"But unless I am able to renegotiate my lease for July and onward, I will no longer be able to remain in business.”

Under California Government Code Section 1090, "officers or employees shall not be financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity, or by any body or board of which they are members.”

The law is "one of the harshest conflict of interest laws in the nation," according to a 2018 presentation to the League of California Cities by Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, LLP.

The section broadly defines the terms "contract" and "financial interest," according to the presentation titled "Navigating Pitfalls Under Government Code Section 1090."

"It also does not matter whether the contract involves actual fraud, dishonesty, unfairness, or loss to the government entity, or whether the contract is fair or oppressive," they wrote in the presentation.

"Further, if one member of a board has a financial interest in a contract, the entire board is disqualified from making the decision, even if the interested member does not vote on the contract or participate in discussions before the vote."

Those who violate Government Code Section 1090 can face criminal charges and be required to "disgorge any benefit obtained through the contract, even when the official abstained from the decision to approve the contract."

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