2. Call For Implemetation and Other Reforms
Text of Recommendations by Independent Activist Bry Myown
June 18, 2002
Long Beach Ethics Task Force
c/o Long Beach City Clerk
333 West Ocean Boulevard
Long Beach CA 90802
I would like to thank you for your interest in the subject matter and the work you have put into making these recommendations. The issue of ethics reform is very important to me, and I regret you have allowed yourselves only one week to respond to today's public comments prior to forwarding your report to the City Council. My foremost concern, therefore, is that this body or a successor body should continue as a source of ongoing recommendations concerning matters of public ethics.
Public perception concerning official conduct is limited by our access to and by the adequacy, timeliness and accuracy of public information. As you know, these issues are largely regulated by the California Public Records and Brown Acts, which set the minimum standards to which local jurisdictions must conform. I believe that outside very narrowly defined circumstances, the presumption of access should be on the side of the public, and I strongly urge this body to
incorporate broader provisions for municipal ownership of official records, records retention timeframes and public records access; create a process to audit sunshine compliance; create an administrative process that allows the public to challenge sunshine right denials without resorting to costly and lengthy court battles; provide guidelines that deem violation of public records and open meeting laws to constitute official misconduct; and urge the City Council to place a Sunshine Initiative on a citywide ballot.
I would urge you to reconsider recommendations concerning the potential conflict of interest posed by outside employment as they pertain to part-time employees and specifically as they pertain to elected officials. In particular, I am concerned by a recent situation in which a sitting Council member is also employed by the Lieutenant Governor. State law recognizes the competing interests between various governmental jobs by forbidding individuals from holding two elected offices. It follows in my mind that employment of one elected official by another may also cause a conflict. In this situation, the Lieutenant Governor may act in the Governor's place, preside over the Senate and cast tie-breaking votes, all of which may conflict with the City's Legislation and Environmental Affairs agenda. Most notably, the Lieutenant Governor sits on the State Lands Commission with whom the City regularly negotiates significant matters pertaining to port properties, oil and gas leases and natural gas costs. By copy of this letter, I am requesting an opinion of the City Attorney on whether this poses a conflict that requires recusal from voting on certain matters. I urge this body to
extend conflict of interest recommendations to part-time employees and elected officials; and clarify whether overlapping political/legislative positions pose a conflict.
I am troubled by your recommendations concerning Item 18, Financial Disclosure. Your report indicates that state laws are already highly complex, technical and fact-based and that it is doubtful additional regulation will provide benefit that outweighs the burden. In fact, State law mandates filing requirements for certain officials and agencies but leaves most, including employees and commissioners, up to the local agency's conflict of interest code. Long Beach has not codified its conflict of interest requirements but relies instead on internal policies. Schedules A and B are only reviewed biennially by the Council, often in incomplete form. The public is often at a loss to understand how or why decisions are made regarding who must file and may not see filings until long after appointments and hiring decisions are made. I urge you to:
recommend codification of the City's conflict of interest policies; create a more stringent review and audit process for Economic Disclosure (Form 700) filings; require Form 700 filings of potential Commission appointees before appointments are approved by the City Council; adopt recommendations concerning conflicts of interests as they pertain to outside contractors; increase the lead time to mandate more than 72-hour notice of Commission appointees and contract awardees; require "quasi-public agencies" such as the Aquarium of the Pacific Board of Directors and the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors to file.
I appreciate your recommendations concerning lobbyists but would also like to see them broadened. As you know, many individuals who work as campaign consultants or fundraisers also do entitlement and public relations work between election cycles and must therefore represent companies (that are often donors) in front of those for whom they also provide campaign services. In addition, the cost of their private non-campaign consulting also has the appearance of having been offset by incentives or subsidies given to those on whose behalf they lobby. Finally, many such individuals may make donations to officials "pet charities." I urge you to make recommendations similar to those promulgated by the Los Angeles Ethics Commission that would
bar officials from acting on issues involving lobbyists who have doubled as their campaign consultants or fundraisers within a specified preceding time period; and prohibit elected officials from acting on issues involving lobbyists who have donated to nonprofit organizations at the officials' behest.
Finally, in what may seem like a small matter, I am concerned that legislative staff is routinely used to provide constituent services or act as the interface with City departments in matter that may politicize service delivery. I see no reason why the public should need to call a legislative office to obtain services already guaranteed and provided by general fund spending and further, if the service delivery is dysfunctional, it is the dysfunction that should be addressed by Council action. There is an extremely easy solution that would save so much staff time and legislative budget that I can't believe it was not done long ago. Please,
recommend a functional telephone decision tree system, or even non-legislative City staff, to direct callers to the appropriate City Departments.
Thank you so much for your hard work on these issues.Sincerely,
Bry Laurie Myown