This story was originally published in the print edition of the Daily Post on Wednesday, April 12. If you want to stay on top of local news, pick up the Post in the mornings at 1,000 Mid-Peninsula locations.
By Braden Cartwright
Daily Post Staff Writer
A Palo Alto councilwoman waited two months from when she was elected to ask the Fair Political Practices Commission if she could still get paid for public speaking while in office.
The FPPC’s answer jeopardizes Councilwoman Julie Lythcott-Haims’ ability to legally work and be on council at the same time.
The FPPC told Lythcott-Haims that she had to reduce the share of her income that came from public speaking to below 50%, or she would be violating the Political Reform Act that restricts public officials from profiting off of their public service.
Lythcott-Haims, who writes books and gives talks about parenting, race and youth development, didn’t respond to questions yesterday. She read a prepared statement at Monday’s council meeting and hasn’t commented since then.
FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga said that Lythcott-Haims emailed the FPPC’s legal division on Jan. 12 asking for advice.
She hired lawyer Gary Winuk, who was the FPPC’s chief of enforcement from 2009 to 2015.
Winuk told the FPPC about the situation: Lythcott-Haims is an author of three books, including a New York Times bestseller, and she is paid to talk about them and write articles. Her work doesn’t have anything to do with city business, Winuk said.
Lythcott-Haims gave 37 promotional book talks and workshops over the past year, and about 85% of them were paid, Winuk said.
FPPC attorney Brian Lau told Winuk on April 7 that Lythcott-Haims had to change her ways.
“Moving forward, she will only be able to receive compensation for speeches and other public talks so long as speech making is not the predominate activity of her business,” Lau said.
“This is my job, it is my work, it is how I support my family,” said Lythcott-Haims, who has a law degree from Harvard.
Lythcott-Haims didn’t specify when she asked the FPPC for advice, except that it was “when (she) was elected.”
She said she is planning to appeal the FPPC’s decision.
All council candidates are required to file a statement of economic interests during the campaign.
Lythcott-Haims said in her filing that her business, Love Over Time LLC, was worth between $100,001 and $1 million, and paid her more than $100,000 in a year.
Four companies gave her more than $10,000: Facebook, TED, Genentech and Henry Holt and Company. Facebook paid Lythcott-Haims to write, TED paid her to speak and Henry Holt published her books, Winuk told the FPPC.