Councilman Dennis Zine has decided to recuse himself from the debate over a $271 million contract for a utility plant at LAX, after it was reported that he is dating the lobbyist for a losing bidder.

In a statement issued today, Zine said he had consulted with the city attorney's office, and was told that the law “is not entirely clear” on whether his relationship with lobbyist Veronica Becerra amounts to a conflict of interest.

“Although I do not feel that a conflict exists, out of an abundance of caution and to avoid any appearance of impropriety, I have decided to voluntarily recuse myself on this issue,” Zine said.

“My hope is that by voluntarily removing myself from this discussion, it

will not distract from the importance of this multi-million dollar

contract,” Zine said.

The airport needs a new utility plant to provide heating and cooling for the terminals. Tutor-Perini is protesting the award of the contract to the joint venture firm of Clark-McCarthy. Tutor-Perini claims it could build the utility plant for $30 million less than the winning bid.

Zine questioned airport officials about that at a council meeting on Dec. 17, saying it had come to his attention that there was a bidder that could do the job for less than Clark-McCarthy. Becerra is the lobbyist for Tutor-Perini.

Airport officials say they disqualified Tutor-Perini's bid because it did not comply with the temperature ranges specified in the request for bids.

Councilman Tony Cardenas also second-guessed the airport's decision to award the contract to Clark-McCarthy, and the council agreed to postpone consideration of the contract until Jan. 4.

The Daily Breeze first reported that Zine was dating Tutor's lobbyist on Dec. 18, citing “several City Hall sources.” The L.A. Weekly confirmed that on Dec. 20 in an interview with Becerra.

“We date,” she said. “It's a dating situation. It's not like we're living together… It's a well-known fact that Dennis Zine dates quite a few young ladies in downtown Los Angeles. It's not like it's an exclusive relationship.”

In his statement today, Zine said that during his tenure he has “made decisions based entirely on what is best for my district and the city of Los Angeles.”

LA Weekly