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Commentary: Wedding Bells Set Off Alarms

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, August 6, 2010
As a former NBA star, Kevin Johnson clearly is Sacramento’s leading celebrity. So it comes as little surprise that his pending wedding, to Washington D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, is generating all kinds of media buzz.
Normally, I’d take a pass on such a topic. Celebrities already get more attention than many of them want or deserve. But this week, a certain wrinkle came to light in the mayor’s wedding plans. Johnson and Rhee will hold their September wedding at the home of Angelo K. Tsakopoulos, one of California’s biggest land developers.
Tsakopoulos has long had business before the city. That means that Johnson has put himself in a position where, in the future, he may be asked to decide on city permits that could benefit his wedding host.
Because of an exemption in state law, elected leaders are not required to report the value of wedding gifts. So from a legal standpoint, Johnson is not obligated to disqualify himself from future decisions that could involve Tsakopoulos. But, the mayor would be smart to do so. He came to office promising to clean up city hall, not engage in conduct that would appear to be a conflict.
Stuart Leavenworth is editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee.
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