San Diego city councilwoman Toni Atkins’s significant other, Jennifer LeSar, has asked the City’s Ethics Commission for some conflict-of-interest advice about her relationship with several unnamed clients who apparently may soon be doing business at city hall. “You indicate that you have clients with matters that may come before the Redevelopment Agency, and are seeking guidance regarding the extent to which you may communicate with Redevelopment Agency staff concerning these matters,” says a December 21, 2007 letter from Ethics Commission lawyer Alison Adema to LeSar, who runs LeSar Development Company and is on the board of the Centre City Development Corporation, an arm of the City’s Redevelopment Agency. She recently got a contract from the mayor of Los Angeles to do a study of skid row there with an eye to redeveloping the area.
The Ethics Commission letter concludes, “If a client’s matter involves a CCDC project, you may not engage in any communications pertaining to that project with anyone who is serving in a staff capacity in connection with that project, including those individuals who are technically employed by the Redevelopment Agency.” But the letter goes on to provide LeSar a bit of wiggle room: “On the other hand, if the client’s matter involves a redevelopment project outside the jurisdiction of CCDC, then you may communicate with Redevelopment Agency staff concerning that project so long as you are not acting on behalf of, or as the representative of, CCDC.”
In February 2006, Atkins asked the Ethics Commission to rule on whether she was barred from voting on matters involving LeSar based on their “personal relationship.” Then–commission lawyer Cristie McGuire responded by noting that the pair were “not registered domestic partners” and concluded that “involvements in bona fide dating relationships do not require public officials to recuse themselves from making governmental decisions that have a financial impact on individuals they are dating.”