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FPPC will investigate allegations

State agency will look into two Newport councilmen having alleged conflicts of interest.

January 24, 2012|By Mike Reicher

The state Fair Political Practices Commission has decided to investigate allegations of conflicts of interest against Newport Beach Councilmen Mike Henn and Rush Hill.

In letters dated Tuesday, the FPPC's Enforcement Division chief wrote that the state would open investigations.

Henn and Hill serve on the Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, which oversees projects in which they allegedly have financial interests. Former Planning Commissioner Robert Hawkins filed complaints against the men earlier this month and provided the FPPC's response to the Daily Pilot.

While the councilmen were copied on the letters, Hill said he had not yet received his and declined to comment. Henn also declined to comment.

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The investigations are independent of each other.

Hawkins, in his complaints, detailed the councilmen's involvement with the revitalization projects. They both prioritized areas slated for revitalization, helped select individuals to serve on citizen advisory panels, and helped define the scope of work for the neighborhoods, Hawkins wrote.

Hill owns a struggling mixed-use commercial building along a portion of Balboa Boulevard slated for new landscaping and a home within 500 feet — the legal threshold — of Mariner's Mile.

Both areas were made priorities by the Neighborhood Revitalization Committee.

Hill recently recused himself from the talks related to those two neighborhoods, and says he did not previously know his commercial building's area would be included in the scope of work.

Henn is a business consultant for the owner of Via Lido Drugs in struggling Lido Village. That area was placed at the top of the list for revitalization, thanks in part to Henn's advocacy.

The owner pays Henn more than $100,000 a year, according to disclosure forms Henn filed with the state. Henn maintains that his business relationship with the owner does not rise to the level of a conflict of interest, but he recused himself from Lido Village talks in November, citing an appearance of a conflict.

Hawkins resigned from the Planning Commission earlier this month.

mike.reicher@latimes.com

Twitter: @mreicher

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