- Define "lobbyist" as any person or entity who receives or becomes entitled to receive compensation for communicating, on behalf of another person or entity, with any city official or employee in order to influence or persuade legislative or administrative action."* (footnote below)
[fn in text: * Some cities set a minimum amount of compensation which must be obtained before the definition applies (e.g., San Jose: $2000/month; Los Angeles: $4000/quarter; San Antonio has no threshold compensation). The Task Force considered this issue and decided any compensation was sufficient to trigger the definition.]
- Define "lobbyist employer" as any person or entity who employs a lobbyist in house to communicate, on its behalf, with any city official or employees, in order to influence or persuade legislative or administrative action.
- Require each lobbyist to file a quarterly report identifying each client or employer on whose behalf lobbying is being conducted, the issue(s) upon which the lobbyist has been retained to lobby, and the identity of the persons in city government, including elected officials, commission members, and employees contacted in the course of the lobbying activities.
- Make the names of registered lobbyists and their reports available to the public and post them on the City’s website.
- Post lobbying requirements in the offices of the mayor and all elected and appointed officials, and provide those requirements to all speakers at City Council and commission meetings.
- The ordinance should exclude the following activities which do not constitute lobbying:
- Requests for information about municipal matters with no attempt to influence
- Communications directed to ministerial actions which do not require a city official or employee to exercise discretion;
- Communications involving applications for licenses, permits or entitlements for use, where no hearing is involved
- The submission of a bid in response to a request for proposal from the City
- Communications in response to questions from the City Department which issued requests for proposals regarding a bid which has been submitted or participation in an interview in connection with a bid or proposal that has been submitted**
[fn in text: ** The Task Force considered the extent to which communications regarding issues and projects which are or may be the subject of bidding should be subject to registration and reporting requirements. Except for the exceptions set forth, the Task Force intends that communications regarding such contracts will be subject to the lobbying ordinance.]
- Communications involving the negotiations of the terms of an agreement, once selected for a job
- Communications by representatives for the purpose of gathering and disseminating news to the public
- Communications made in a speech, article, publication or other material that is disseminated to the public through a medium of mass communication
- Former employees from lobbying on behalf of or representing another before their former city department
- Former appointed officials from lobbying on behalf of or representing another before their former board/commission and the department connected to the board/commission
- Former elected officials from lobbying on behalf of or representing another before any city agency
...At the meeting of the Task Force held on March 13, 2002, City Attorney Robert Shannon stated his opinion that no councilmember had acted unlawfully or in bad faith in allocation of funds, but suggested that discretionary funds violated the spirit of the City Charter and the Municipal Code budget process. He raised concerns about the process involved in the award of such funds, including insufficient public input. Members of the public spoke both in favor and against discretionary funds. Written communications on the topic were also received. The Task Force then assigned the topic to the already established Campaign Activity Committee for further review.
The committee’s recommendation was to "adopt comprehensive regulations for discretionary funds. . . or end all discretionary funds"." The committee’s report (see Appendix D) summarized the concerns that a very serious perception exists that discretionary funds are used by council members for campaign or political advantage, but also noted that funds had been used for worthwhile projects.
The entire Task Force considered the topic and extensively discussed the committee’s report. The Task Force debated whether a decision regarding the existence of discretionary funds is a policy issue for the Council and Mayor rather than an ethical issue which fell within the scope of the Task Force’s assignment. Ultimately, the Task Force, by a majority, adopted the committee’s recommendations for specific regulations regarding discretionary funds.
The Task Force did not decide and did not recommend whether discretionary funds should be abolished or continued. Many members on the Task Force argued strongly that the funds should, indeed, end and, as noted, that was the committee’s alternative recommendation to regulation. There was a spirited debate. It was argued that the funds, while going to good causes, created so much potential for "mischief," gave the appearance of impropriety, and took up so much time at City Council meetings that any benefit that the funds yielded was lost.
Others suggested that the funds were a means of getting city monies to small community groups involved in worthwhile causes that could not or would not otherwise access city funds if they were required to participate in the bureaucracy of the budget process. It should be noted that the Task Force discussions occurred contemporaneously with ongoing City Council and mayoral elections and considerable publicity in the local press regarding the concurrent award of discretionary funds by incumbent City Council members who were running for office.
The eleven recommendations adopted by the Task Force to regulate discretionary funds, if existent, include:
1. Limitation on Recipients. Limits should be made for who (or what organiza-tions) are eligible to apply for discretionary funds. For example, eligible groups may include charitable organizations tax-exempt under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, neighborhood associations in Long Beach, or city departments.
2. Written Applications. Written applications should be required describing specifically how the money would be spent and when the program/ project will be completed. An application must include:(a) Name and background of proposed recipient
(b) Project description
(c) Expected benefits
(d) Project time frame
(e) Person responsible for the total project
3. District Meetings. Applications for funds should be discussed at a public meeting held in each council district to discuss the merits of the applications received. The City Councilmember who represents the district should preside over the meeting, which may be held in a town hall format.
4. Final Report. At the completion of each project, a final report should be submitted that certifies the objectives were met and provides an accounting for all funds.
5. Status Reports. If the project lasts longer than six months, then semi-annual reports should be required until all funds are spent and a final report is completed and filed.
6. Council Approval/Discussion. All proposed discretionary fund disbursements should be listed as an "action item" on the City Council agenda so they may be discussed by the Council and be subject to public comment.
7. Audit Procedures. The City Auditor or the Department of Financial Manage-ment should be given jurisdiction to audit all discretionary fund allocations to ensure they were spent as appropriated. Audits should be conducted on a specified number of recipients (e.g., 15% of the total each year), on allocations for large amounts (e.g., over $5,000), on allocations where, after review of the final report, discrepancies are found, or any other auditing procedures that makes sense.
8. Public Disclosure of Projects. The City Clerk must maintain a list of all funding approvals (e.g., project description, amount, current status). This list should be included on the City web page.
9. Timing for Allocations. Discretionary funds should be approved only at certain meetings, either quarterly or monthly (subject to black-out period, see below).
10. Black-Out Period. Approval or disbursement of discretionary funds should be prohibited within 90 days before and 60 days after a city election (including special elections), whether or not the councilmember proposing the allocation is up for re-election.
11. Voter Ratification. Although discretionary funds may not violate the letter of the law, some believe it violates the spirit. Therefore, within the next year, Long Beach voters should have the issue presented to them, whether in the form of an advisory vote or actual change to the City Charter or Municipal Code. Only after the voters have approved the method and limits of discretionary funds will the practice be made legitimate.
The Draft Ethics Task Force Report ends with the following conclusion:
The Task Force hopes that the City Council will give serious and prompt consideration to the recommendations provided. The Task Force is convinced that the adoption of these recommendations and adherence to them will foster greater trust by Long Beach residents in their government.
DATED: June 6, 2002
City Hall's appointed Ethics Task Force members are: Honorable Robert W. Parkin (Chair), Ed Barwick, Sandy Blazer, Betty Ann Downing, Richard Green, Pastor Garon Harden, Mario Cordero (Vice Chair), Doug Haubert, Dennis Lord, Douglas W. Otto, Felton C. Williams, Susan E. Anderson Wise