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Horn Asks California’s FPPC To Reconsider Conflict Of Interest Ruling

Photo credit: Beverley Woodworth

A view is shown of the area where the 1,700-home Lilac Hills Ranch development is proposed in Valley Center, April 29, 2015.

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San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn said Wednesday he will send more information to the Fair Political Practices Commission, asking it to reconsider the conclusion that he has a conflict of interest in the Lilac Hills vote.

Photo credit: Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger

Map of the location of Supervisor Bill Horn's property in relation to the proposed Lilac Hills development, which is west of Valley Center. September 2015.

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FPPC Advice Letter to Supervisor Bill Horn

FPPC Advice Letter to Supervisor Bill Horn

FPPC letter advising Supervisor Bill Horn of a conflict of interests in the matter of the proposed Lilac Hills Ranch development

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Horn's Statement

Horn's Statement

Supervisor Bill Horn's response to the FPPC advice letter

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Updated 6 p.m. Wednesday:

In a news release late Wednesday afternoon, county Supervisor Bill Horn said he "will remain a non-participant with regard to the Lilac Hills Ranch project."

"However, I am requesting a reconsideration of their decision and will also seek clarified guidelines as to when I can and cannot vote on land use items within my district."

What Horn is asking of the FPPC is unusual. Here's what Jay Wierenga, spokesman for the FPPC, said in an email to KPBS on Wednesday night:

"There is no formal ‘appeals’ process or term of ‘reconsideration’ for an Advice Letter, and barring any new facts or information there is no real ‘reconsideration’ given. The Advice letter states what it states and says what it says, based on the facts provided by the Supervisor in asking the Legal Division for the advice. If and when a public official provides any new facts or information they can request advice based on the new facts and or information."

Updated 5 p.m. Wednesday:

San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn said Wednesday he will send more information to the Fair Political Practices Commission, asking it to reconsider the conclusion that he has a conflict of interest in the Lilac Hills vote.

County staff released a statement saying the scheduled Oct. 28 vote on the proposed Lilac Hills development will be postponed to wait for clarification from the FPPC.

“The county supports the request for reconsideration," the statement read. "The October 13th FPPC opinion letter, as written, raises several questions regarding future land use issues. Clarity is needed to ensure no voters in any of the five county districts are disenfranchised by the new FPPC rules.”

Original Story:

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission has advised San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn he has a conflict of interest and should recuse himself from voting on the precedent-setting Lilac Hills development project.

The advice letter delivered late Tuesday is not good news for the project. Horn has received contributions from the developer and his vote could have proved key to approval.

The project would build 1,700 homes on semi-rural agricultural land near Valley Center, an area where the county’s General Plan for growth calls for little more than 100 homes. It is viewed as a test case for the General Plan, which was passed in 2011 after more than a decade of public engagement.

The five supervisors were set to vote Wednesday on the Lilac Hills development, but the vote was postponed to wait for the FPPC advice letter on Horn's potential conflict of interest.

Horn responded with a statement calling the advice letter “outrageous” and “a dangerous affront to our constitution.”

The FPPC letter states that Horn has a conflict of interest since his property is 1.3 miles from the nearest boundary of the proposed Lilac Hills Ranch property:

“Under these facts, a reasonable inference can be made that the financial effect of such a major development in a relatively undeveloped, rural area would have a reasonably foreseeable material financial effect on the market value of your real property. Therefore, you have a conflict of interest in decisions involving the Project and you must recuse yourself from participating in these decisions.”

Horn is currently prevented from developing his property because he is bound by the Williamson Act, which allows him reduced property taxes in return for maintaining agricultural uses on the land. However, that agreement can be terminated, allowing development in 10 years.

In his response statement, released Tuesday night, Horn said he would recuse himself from the upcoming vote.

“I will abstain with great trepidation, and grave concern over the chipping away at the foundation of what we as Americans believe,” he wrote.

The item could be on the Supervisor's Oct. 28 agenda and would need three votes to pass.

Randy Goodson, CEO of Accretive Investments, said in a statement: “We remain confident the Board will confirm the recommendations of the Planning Department and Planning Commission.”

The County’s Planning Commission voted four to three last month to recommend the County Board of Supervisors approve the project with some conditions.

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