Group Accuses Councilmember Davis of Conflict of Interest
September 24, 2020
By David Ganezer
The Santa Monica Transparency Project has written an open letter accusing SM City Council member Gleam Davis of a conflict of interest regarding the proposed expansion of the Miramar Hotel, a project which has been in the works for about a decade.
"Ms. Davis' husband John Prindle is a highly paid, long-term senior executive at Dell Technolo-gies. See Ms. Davis' Schedule C, Form 700 filings from at least 2013. Indeed, he is Global Ac-counts Manager," says the letter.
Michael Dell, the largest shareholder in Dell Inc., also has a large interest in the Miramar property at the northeast corner of Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Blvd., the group says.
The property, which once belonged to Sen. John P. Jones, the founder of Santa Monica, is now the site of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows, a local landmark.
Dell wants to develop the property by tearing down buildings from the 1920's and 1980's, and re-placing them with a far larger and more intensive set of buildings. This proposed expansion has met with strong opposition from the community concerned about a potential traffic gridlock, among other issues.
The Transparency Project’s website says they are “an all-volunteer group of Santa Monica resi-dents concerned about openness, accountability, and conflicts of interest involving our city elected officials. Identifying, and fully resolving conflict of interest situations is crucial to good governance and maintaining public trust.”
An except from Mary Marlow's letter on behalf of the group to Interim City Attorney George Car-dona follows:
Dear Mr. Cardona,
The Santa Monica Transparency Project writes to you about the serious issue raised by Coun-cilmember Gleam Davis' participation in the considerations over and possible vote on the Miramar Hotel project.
The facts are simple. And compelling. (1) Michael Dell and his family own an overwhelming inter-est in Ocean Avenue LLC which owns the Miramar. See Ocean Avenue LLC v. County of Los An-geles, 227 Cal.App.4th 344 (2014) (2) Ms. Davis' husband John Prindle is a highly paid, long- term senior executive at Dell Technologies. See Ms. Davis' Schedule C, Form 700 filings from at least 2013. Indeed, he is Global Accounts Manager. See LinkedIn (3) Dell Technologies' founder is listed as Michael Dell who is also listed as its Chairman and CEO. See Wikipedia (4) Michael Dell is also a significant shareholder of Dell.
We understand that you are already looking into the important ethical, public policy and legal is-sues squarely raised by these facts. At this time, more than ever, with conflicts of interest in the public sector so rampant nationally and corrosive, it is vital that our City avoid them. Especially for a public entity, actual, apparent and the appearance of conflicts are each destructive of public trust and good governance. Here, we believe we have them all.
We read with some dismay Ms. Davis' comments on this issue in today's Lookout News. For an attorney and long-time public official (Planning Commission, City Council) her view of what would constitute a conflict appears exceptionally narrow. She seems to limit a conflict to a direct financial benefit to her family from the approval by the Council of Michael Dell's hotel or her husband's compensation being directly linked to Mr. Dell's private investments. While Michael Dell is the namesake, Founder, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and a major shareholder of Dell, she rests on "it is owned by shareholders-not Michael Dell." Conflicts, especially for a public official such as Councilmember Davis, who is considering a controversial multi- million project, are, of course, broader than this.
Additionally, we believe that there is both an actual and an apparent conflict-as the spouse she profits from her husband's current work for and continued work and advancement in a company that is at its core Michael Dell's company, the same Michael Dell who is the owner of the Miramar project on which, if not recused, she would vote.
Obviously, it is important to get this right. Councilmember Davis' participation in the Council delib-erations, decision making and/or voting can potentially invalidate the process. It would surely lead to further public distrust of the Miramar Hotel process and increase cynicism of Santa Monica's government.
Chair, Santa Monica Transparency Project
CC: City Council
Lane Dilg, Interim City Manager Community Leaders