BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
A state agency is looking into whether Los Altos Mayor Jan Pepper would have a conflict of interest if she votes on a ban on natural gas in new homes because she is CEO of a nonprofit energy cooperative in San Mateo County.
If the California Fair Political Practices Commission determines Pepper has a conflict, the attempt to ban natural gas in Los Altos would die.
In November, the City Council voted 3-2 in favor of the ban, with Pepper, Jeannie Bruins and Neysa Fligor supporting it while Lynette Lee Eng and Anita Enander opposed it. But that was a preliminary vote and the council sent the legislation back to its Environmental Commission to re-work. The revised version is now coming before council.
But if Pepper can’t vote, the council would likely split 2-2. In the case of a tie, the legislation would fail.
Los Altos resident Freddie Wheeler said she filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission because Pepper is the CEO of Peninsula Clean Energy.
Peninsula Clean Energy buys electricity on behalf of San Mateo County residents, though the power is fed to homes and businesses through PG&E lines. Los Altos gets its power from PG&E, but customers can choose to get energy from Silicon Valley Clean Energy, a nonprofit similar to Peninsula Clean Energy.
Wheeler said both organizations are trying to get cities to pass bans on natural gas.
Wheeler said she raised this potential conflict with Pepper in November but was told the city’s lawyers had deemed it a non-issue.
Pepper told the Post that there is no conflict of interest because her salary won’t increase if Los Altos adopts the gas bans. Still, said she also asked the Fair Political Practices Commission for advice on whether she can vote on the natural gas restrictions.
Fair Political Practices Commission spokesman Jay Wierenga said the commission has 21 days to respond to legal advice requests.
“We always encourage public officials to be aware of any potential conflicts they may have … and take action to gain answers in a timely manner, and to refrain from voting until they receive the guidance,” he said.