The California Fair Political Practices Commission has added contracts totaling nearly $6 million to an investigation of Fresno Unified school board president Brooke Ashjian’s alleged conflicts of interest.
But Ashjian has dismissed the allegations, and contends the investigation will find no foul play regarding his outside businesses.
The new complaint, filed April 13, adds Fresno County, the city of Fresno and several local construction firms to a list of organizations that an attorney first flagged the FPPC about in October. The complaints allege that Ashjian, who owns Seal Rite Paving and other companies, failed to fully disclose a slew of businesses as a source of income on his Statement of Economic Interests – a form elected officials are required to fill out to ensure transparency and prevent conflicts of interest.
I challenge anybody to show me where I profited one dime from this deal. Unlike the lease-leasebacks, where we all know who profited from those deals, I didn’t profit one dime.
Frseno Unified school board president Brooke Ashjian
The complaints allege that Ashjian should have abstained from votes on Fresno Unified contracts with any entities he has done outside work with. The complaints also take issue with the fact that last year, Ashjian amended his Statement of Economic Interest to add more than 100 companies to his form that he had not originally disclosed.
The complaints that spurred the FPPC investigation were filed by Kenneth Mackie, a Merced-based attorney who is working on behalf of a group called Fresno Watchdogs for Ethical Bidding. Mackie has refused to say who hired him and will not reveal who is involved in the watchdog group.
Ashjian said Monday that he is undeterred by the new allegations, and that despite the complaints’ claims, he has gone above and beyond when it comes to reporting financial interests.
“I overstated my interests and over-reported my clients that I had done business with in the spirit of transparency,” Ashjian said. “This guy is a broken record saying the same thing over and over again. He has imaginary friends and imaginary clients.”
It's not that (Ashjian) can't do any work ever for any contractor that FUSD has ever used, it's that he cannot vote on any agenda item that relates to any contract between FUSD and any source of income.
Attorney Kenneth Mackie
Ashjian has claimed that Mackie – who has also made the allegations publicly at school board meetings – is targeting him for political reasons.
“(Mackie) is saying that it’s a conflict of interest – that somehow, some way I profited from my votes,” Ashjian said. “I challenge anybody to show me where I profited one dime from this deal. Unlike the lease-leasebacks, where we all know who profited from those deals, I didn’t profit one dime.”
The FPPC works to regulate campaign financing, conflicts of interest, lobbying and government ethics. If there is insufficient evidence to prosecute, the FPPC may close the case with a letter finding no action. If the seriousness of the offense and public harm are low, a warning letter may be issued identifying a violation of the Political Reform Act. The FPPC could force the subject of an investigation to pay a fine or could take other remedial action.