Business & Real Estate

Sacramento planning commissioner agrees to $6,000 fine for improper influence

Philip Harvey, a veteran member of Sacramento’s Planning and Design Commission and vice president of Petrovich Development Company, has agreed to pay a hefty fine for improperly using his influence to sway city decisions over Petrovich’s Curtis Park Village project, the state’s political watchdog agency said Monday.

In an agreement with the Fair Political Practices Commission, posted on the FPPC’s website, Harvey agreed to pay a $6,000 fine for violating the state’s Political Reform Act “by attempting to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he had a financial interest,” according to a document detailing the settlement.

In December 2010 and January 2011, Harvey communicated with a city planner about the preparation of a planning document for Curtis Park Village, the agreement says. The contact was initiated by the city planner, it says. In January and February 2011, Harvey communicated with the planner and other city employees about terms for removing a tree from the property, it says.

The two counts carry a maximum penalty of $5,000 each, or $10,000 total. Harvey will pay less because he didn’t initiate the contacts with city staff, and the matters he sought to influence weren’t before the planning commission, the document says.

On the other hand, Harvey should have known to avoid conflicts of interest, the commission staff concluded.

“Attempting to use an official position to influence a governmental decision in which an official has a financial interest is one of the more serious violations of the Act” because it creates the appearance that the decision was based on that interest,” the FPPC document says.

The FPPC must still approve the settlement at its next meeting, on July 17. A spokesman said the agency could not comment on the matter until it is finalized. Harvey also declined to comment while the commission’s vote is pending.

In an interview with The Bee in February, when the allegations were issued, Harvey said he would fight the charges. He said he never mentioned his position on the planning commission when communicating with city staff, and had recused himself from votes affecting Curtis Park Village.

The FPPC “offered me a settlement, and I said ‘No’ because I didn’t feel I’ve done anything wrong,” he said at the time.

Curtis Park Village, now under construction, will feature 180,000 square feet of retail and about 500 housing units, including single-family homes and apartments. It is being built on a former railyard between the Curtis Park neighborhood and Sacramento City College.