I spoke to a leader in the Orange County trades unions this week about what is being perceived as a conflict of interest. Apparently the campaign of John Leos, a candidate for the Anaheim City Council, is being run by Andrew Gibson, the brother of OCEA President Robert Gibson. The OCEA has endorsed Leos, a longtime member of their union.
The trade unions have really suffered over the past few years with the recession, which hit the building industry particularly hard. There was a boon for awhile with school bond measure driven construction but that is all about done now too. So they have understandably gotten behind the Anaheim Council candidats who support the use of Anaheim Hotel Tax money to help fund the construction of a new hotel in Anaheim.
Leos is opposed to that use of the hotel tax as is Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, who has endorsed both Leos and another candidate, Lucille Kring. Both of them were also endorsed by the O.C. Register’s editorial staff in this Sunday’s paper.
I feel for the trades as I understand how bad it has been for their members. One of my relatives is a longtime member of the trade unions, specilizing in drywall. He finally retired this summer as there just was no work to do.
So I can understand why the trades are backing Council candidates Jordan Brandman and Steve Chavez Lodge. Those two are backed by the SOAR PAC and the Anaheim Chamber and they support the Hotel tax subsidy of the hotel project in question.
But is there a conflict of interest with regardo to the Gibson brothers?
Well, I suspect that Robert Gibson’s interest in Leos is a personal one as they both work in the Orange County Probation Department. The fact that his brother is Leos’ campaign manager underscores how long Leos has known Gibson. These are personal relationships that have now crossed over into politics.
So no, I don’t see this being a huge conflict of interest but I can’t blame the trades for at least giving it a shot. Their members are hungry for work and they will do whatever they can to elect the Council candidates who will help make that happen.
I hope that Leos and Kring will sit down with the trades and help assuage their concerns and misunderstandings. I am sure that both Leos and Kring support continued development in Anaheim. But whether or not rich developers should get tax subsidies is a very good question we all should ponder.