State ethics watchdog says he plans to recuse himself from investigation into councilwoman

A member of the statewide government ethics commission that is investigating Long Beach Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce over conflict-of-interest allegations indicated on Friday that he plans to recuse himself from the case.

Brian Hatch, a Long Beach resident and member of the Fair Political Practices Commission, stirred controversy this week when he told the Post that he is considering running for Pearce’s City Council seat, which is up for election in March.

The revelation came a month after the FPPC launched an investigation into Pearce following a Post report in which the councilwoman admitted to accepting payment from businesses linked to the cannabis industry and the Queen Mary.

Pearce failed to reveal some of that income on financial disclosure forms, and a subsequent city investigation found that she has a financial conflict of interest that disqualifies her from voting on the Queen Mary and cannabis matters—two major issues in the 2nd District.

Sources this week told the Post that Hatch has requested meetings with city officials recently and attended a meeting of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor with Pearce. Hatch confirmed he attended the meeting, and that Pearce was there, but said that she arrived about an hour after him.

In a regular meeting of the FPPC on Friday, Hatch fired back in response to a letter from Long Beach resident Michelle Baker expressing concerns over the ethics of an FPPC commissioner mulling a run against a city councilwoman whom his commission is investigation.

Baker in her letter, referred to the Post’s Tuesday article.

“In response to the email from Michelle Baker, I just want to say in answer that I am, too, concerned about this misleading article,” Hatch said. “We’ve both been victims of unsubstantiated rumors put forth as factual evidence.”

Hatch did not specify what information in the article he believed to be misleading.

As the Post reported, Hatch reiterated that he has not discussed the Pearce investigation with anyone outside of the FPPC. He said he has “always recused himself” in the event that he has a conflict with an investigation, noting that time for recusal is when the enforcement case is officially presented before the committee.

“At that time, I will surely recuse myself from participating in the deliberations and vote,” he said.

If he wants to run for Pearce’s seat, Hatch—a 79-year-old a former lobbyist for the California Professional Firefighters—would have to resign his position as one of five appointed members of the FPPC.

The FPPC enforces state laws that govern how politicians conduct themselves. Most cases involving politicians end in settlements that are approved by commissioners, and they often involve thousands of dollars in fines.

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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