City Attorney Has Stake in Chain Franchise But Says This Won't Affect Her Malibu Day Job
• Community Activists Are Asking Questions about Policy Influence
BY BILL KOENEKER
With the attention of groups like Preserve Malibu and others focused on small businesses in Malibu and continual discussion on how retail chains might be impacting these locals, it wasn't long before activists started asking questions about private financial interests of municipal officials and office-holders.
One of the first to be quizzed by a citizen activist is City Attorney Christi Hogin. That's not surprising given the press releases being pumped out over the Internet about her involvement in the Tossed Los Angeles grand opening.
The press releases play up that Christi Hogin and her husband Michael Jenkins are investors in the chain with partner Kourush Khaleghian, a long-time Los Angeles resident.
Tossed is described as a fast, casual salad, crepe and sandwich chain featuring made-to-order gourmet salads with over 50 choices of self-select ingredients.
Tossed has at least five locations in the United States: New York City; Boston; Franklin, Tennessee; Morrisville, North Carolina; and Houston.
The restaurants feature a contemporary design package and non-cooking kitchen, according to a trade publication, which describes the chain as well suited for full-service stores, as well as food courts and freestanding locations.
When the Tossed Los Angeles location had its grand opening at 700 Wilshire Boulevard last month, Tossed Franchise Corporation President Jason Chodash was reported to have publicly thanked Hogin and Jenkins for their efforts on behalf of the site.
When Hogin was asked via email by activist Cindy Vandor about whether she had any interest in restaurants, the city attorney acknowledged she owns an interest in the newly opened restaurant located in downtown Los Angeles and described it as the first of its kind in California. She added that there are six others of its kind, including one in Canada.
When she learned this, Vandor then wanted to know whether Hogin was providing legal advice to the City of Malibu regarding the diversification ordinance. Hogin said she had not yet done so. noting in an email, "I assume I will eventually. I attended one meeting,"
Vandor then asked if this could be a conflict of interest. The city attorney replied, "No. I have no financial interest in any business or property in Malibu." That response is the statute definition of conflict of interest, which doesn't cover possible bias toward specific kinds of businesses in general.
Hogin said she understood the question. "You are concerned that I would have a bias toward a particular outcome in the diversification ordinance. I really don't. [My role] is not to make policy but rather to help the policy makers understand the range of options available to them and to assist in implementing the decision maker's policy choices in a manner consistent with the law. I appreciate that the residents of Malibu elected the council to decide what's best for the city."
Hogin and her husband head up the law firm Jenkins and Hogin, which contracts legal services for a dozen Southern California cities and has as many lawyers on the payroll.