A Mountain View landlord is seeking the resignation of Rental Housing Committee member Emily Ramos based on concerns that her role as a tenant creates a conflict of interest. City attorneys have dismissed the concerns as unfounded.
In a letter sent to the city last week, lawyers for AvalonBay Communities allege they will be treated unfairly by the city's rental committee because Ramos is a tenant in one of their Mountain View apartments.
In February, Avalon submitted a petition to increase rents beyond the normal limit at an apartment complex at 1600 Villa St. If approved, Ramos' rent would increase by $1,000 a month, the lawyers note. Thus, they argue that she has an "unavoidable conflict of interest" in her role on the rental committee.
This conflict has already been demonstrated, according to Avalon attorneys. They allege that Ramos asked Project Sentinel to give out her email contact to affected tenants at an informational meeting earlier in April. Project Sentinel helps administer the city's rent-control program, including hiring and training hearing officers who adjudicate rent petitions.
By getting involved, Ramos may have biased this process, Avalon attorneys say. They requested she resign.
"Even if Ms. Ramos has no further involvement concerning Avalon's Petition, her position on the Rental Housing Committee threatens to influence the decisions and actions of the Hearing Officer," wrote attorney Thomas Gibbs. "At the very least this creates an appearance of conflict and bias."
Those claims were disputed for being factually incorrect by the Rental Housing Committee's attorney, Karen Tiedemann. Ramos never contacted Project Sentinel regarding the rent petition or tried to give out her contact information to other tenants, Tiedemann said.
In any case, city attorneys say the idea that Ramos should be disqualified for being a tenant "had no merit." Ramos has no control over contracts with individual hearing officers, Tiedemann said, adding that job is entirely outsourced to Project Sentinel.
"It would be absurd for anyone to draw the conclusion that a hearing officer ... would be tempted not to be scrupulously fair in rendering a decision because an RHC member is impacted by the decision," she wrote.
Tiedemann did point out that Ramos would need to recuse herself if Avalon's petition is brought before the Rental Housing Committee.
Ramos did not respond to a request for comment.