The state's political ethics agency has announced it is investigating a complaint alleging that Palo Alto's former chief information officer violated state gift laws by taking numerous trips — including international ones — financed by groups that work with telecommunications companies doing business with the city.
Jeanne Fleming, the member of grassroots organization United Neighbors who filed the complaint in early November, says she received a letter Wednesday from the Fair Political Practices Commission stating that its enforcement division will investigate her allegations. A commission spokesperson verified that Thursday.
Fleming contends that then-Chief information Officer Jonathan Reichental violated the state's annual gift limit by taking 114 days' worth of illegal trips between 2013 and 2017, paid for by groups such as TM Forum and Blockchain Association of Australia, which do business with telecommunications companies.
In an interview with Techwire earlier this month, Reichental denied any wrongdoing and called the accusation "entirely without merit."
Days after the complaint was made public, Reichental announced he was leaving the city for a job with Oracle as the global industries solution leader for its public-sector division.
Fleming's complaint alleges that on travel forms he was required to file with the state, Reichental "repeatedly mischaracterized the parties paying for his trips as 501(c)(3) nonprofits, although they clearly are not ... in order to evade the constraints imposed by California gift law." She said the trips not only violate the state's $470-per-source annual gift limit, but also raise conflict-of-interest issues for an official who can guide decisions regarding telecom projects.
Reichental told Techwire he had no influence over telecom governance in the city, and he called the accusation "unfair."
If the commission finds that Reichental violated state laws, he could be fined up to $5,000 per violation and possibly face criminal prosecution.
(c)2018 the Palo Alto Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. Techwire contributed to this report.