Gregory Cox, who is also a longtime member of the San Diego County
Board of Supervisors, said in a statement Thursday he did not know
that his wife had purchased 500 shares of SeaWorld stock in January
of 2015 for her personal retirement account, according to the
California Fair Political Practices Commission.
"When I discovered the purchase, the stock was sold and the facts
were reported," Cox said. "Both my wife and I deeply regret the
About three months after Cheryl Cox bought the stock for $8,679,
SeaWorld filed an application with the California Coastal Commission
to expand a facility at which captive orcas, or killer whales, are
held and shown to the public.
Cox introduced a motion to support the project with limitations on
the number of orcas involved, voting ultimately to support an
amended version calling for an end to SeaWorld's orca breeding
program. On Thursday, the California Fair Political Practices
Commission voted to fine him $3,000.
The SeaWorld shows, which the park has since said it would end along
with its orca breeding program, have been controversial for years,
with public opposition growing after the 2013 documentary
"Blackfish" depicted the captivity and public exhibition of killer
whales as inherently cruel.
The criticism intensified after three orcas died at SeaWorld San
Antonio within a six-month span in 2015.
SeaWorld said last month that it would stop breeding killer whales
in captivity, bowing to years of pressure from animal rights
activists. The company has also said that it will phase out its
signature "Shamu" killer whale shows in San Diego with modified
presentations of the animals that focused on conservation.
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Cox told the FPPC he discovered that his wife owned the stock in
January while preparing his taxes and his annual disclosure of
economic interests as a public official.
He asked her to sell the stock, and reported the conflict to the
FPPC, documents show.
But the FPPC said Cox and his wife, a former mayor of the city of
Chula Vista who sold her stock for about $9,593, were longtime
elected officials who "had a high level of awareness" of conflict of
Cox should have known that he had a conflict, the FPPC said.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Bernard Orr)
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