Ex-city real estate adviser Jason Hughes is asking the state Court of Appeal to overturn two recent Superior Court rulings allowing the city’s conflict-of-interest cases against him to proceed.
City Hall was rocked last year by the public revelation that the city’s 101 Ash and Civic Center Plaza landlord paid Hughes, who in 2013 volunteered to advise on city real estate issues, $9.4 million for his work on the leases.
Attorneys for the city have argued the city only learned of the payments to Hughes amid litigation last year and that they have a strong conflict-of-interest case against him. Hughes’ attorneys have argued Hughes – who did not have a formal contract with the city – was not covered by state conflict-of-interest law, Government Code Section 1090. They also argued a four-year statute of limitations had lapsed and noted that Hughes’ statements to multiple city officials about seeking payment put the city on notice and could have triggered further investigation.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor on Oct. 3 ruled that there were “triable issues of material fact” over whether Hughes reasonably believed he wasn’t expected to “subordinate his financial interests to the public’s” and whether the city the city should have been on notice that the leases were influenced by Hughes’ alleged conflict-of-interest.
In two filings last Friday, Hughes’ attorneys argued that Taylor’s ruling was “improperly based on speculation and conjecture,” that the statute of limitations should apply and that Taylor “engaged in an unprecedented extension of Government Code section 1090 to ensnare Hughes in a way that has never been sanctioned before” since he was an adviser without a contract.
The Court of Appeal responded late Thursday with requests for the city to informally respond to Hughes’ filings by Nov. 7. It’s unclear what might come next.
An attorney for Hughes declined to comment on the attempted appeals and a spokeswoman for City Attorney Mara Elliott’s office said it will “respond through the court.”
The cases are for now set to go to trial in January.