Henn votes on Lido, despite financial ties

Newport mayor's decisions on Lido Village revival could help one of his consulting clients.

August 13, 2011|By Mike Reicher,
  • Via Lido Drugs store in Newport Beach.
Via Lido Drugs store in Newport Beach. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Newport Beach Mayor Mike Henn has long championed the revitalization of struggling Lido Village.

He led the city's efforts to improve the commercial area's streetscape, redesign streets and parking, and bring more shoppers through its stores. When residents or council members suggested they slow down or focus on other struggling parts of town, such as Mariner's Mile, Henn insisted that Lido Village remain the top priority.

"It's good for all the residents of Newport Beach," Henn said in an interview. "It's a critical issue to move forward."

Henn's council district includes Lido Village — a gateway area to the Balboa Peninsula — so his advocacy to improve the area and please his constituents should come as no surprise. But he is also personally invested in the zone's success.

As a business consultant, Henn is paid more than $100,000 a year by a shop owner in one of the village's distressed retail centers, according to disclosure forms he filed with the state.


Conflict-of-interest experts, however, say Henn should have avoided voting on or discussing the issue on the City Council because improving the retail center could directly benefit his client and indirectly help him.

"It's just too close of a financial connection to participate," said Bob Stern, president of the L.A.-based Center for Governmental Studies nonprofit and co-author of the state's Political Reform Act, adding that his point of view should not be considered a legal opinion.

While some say that it's important for politicians to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, Henn did take steps to make sure he was on the right side of the law, according to interviews and records reviewed by the Daily Pilot.

The mayor, who is viewed as a cautious businessman and politician, sought out legal advice on more than one occasion to determine whether he could participate in matters relating to Lido Village. The city attorney, as well as one of the attorney's predecessors, told Henn that it was OK to participate in and vote on issues related to the shopping center.

"I am quite confident I do not have a conflict of interest," said Henn, who declined to elaborate in subsequent interviews.


How Henn is connected to Lido Village

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