- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - California’s political watchdog agency is investigating Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido for earning $197,000 from a land swap with a businessman who later landed a $1.35 million, no-bid contract from the city, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission is looking into possible violations of rules related to Pulido’s vote for the contract and his failure to disclose ownership of a house he bought from Rupen Akoubian, the Orange County Register reported (http://bit.ly/1fpctRS ).

In 2010, Pulido and several family members sold a vacant lot next to Akoubian’s auto-parts store in exchange for a house in Westminster. Both properties were valued at $200,000 in sales documents, but when the house was transferred to Pulido for sole ownership nearly two years later, it sold for $397,000.

During the time of the transactions, Pulido voted to renew the city’s one-year, $50,000 contract with Akoubian’s business to supply parts for the city’s 700-car fleet.

He also voted to award a no-bid, $1.35 million contract to Akoubian’s business when the city decided to contract with a single auto-parts provider instead of 80.

Pulido denied playing a role in setting up the contract. City spokesman Jose Gonzalez said the decision to go to a single auto-parts vendor was a “staff-driven decision” intended to save money.

Pulido said the value of the two properties traded was the same and disputed reports that the county assessed the value of the house at $430,000.

“The property values being reported are not accurate and appraisals will show my family received no benefit,” Pulido said. “This is a politically motivated issue without reasonable controversy and does not violate state law.”

Akoubian has said the real estate deal was simply to acquire much-needed landed next to his store and had nothing to do with the city contracts.