(Sept. 22, 2004) -- The City Council may require governing boardmembers of LB's Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) -- a non-government entity that operates under contract with City Hall and receives roughly 3/4 of its operating budget from public funds via LB's hotel room tax -- to file the same type of financial disclosure forms required from members of City Hall bodies, including the City Council.
The issue arose at the Sept. 21 Council meeting during an item that (until recently) had been routine: receipt of conflict of interest codes that city bodies must file.
For the past four years, LB writer and activist Bry Myown has testified each time the issue came up, urging that members of the CVB's governing board be required to file financial disclosure forms.
In April 2003, Ms. Myown succeeded in forcing a Council vote on the issue...but was stymied when two then-incumbent Councilmembers contributed to a split vote (Lowenthal absent) that effectively exempted CVB boardmembers from the disclosure requirement.
This time however, Ms. Myown noted that the two now-former incumbents had been replaced by 4th district Councilman Patrick O'Donnell and 8th district Councilwoman Rae Gabelich:
"I'd like to think that you were each not only elected because your constituents want openness and transparency, but because they object to a reprehensible practice of funding a public entity [the CVB] which has been lobbying at the Airport Advisory Commission and will do so in the very near future in front of this body on airport [terminal facilities] expansion," Ms. Myown said.
[In testimony before City Hall's Airport Advisory Commission, LB CVB President/CEO has twice testified to convey the position of the CVB Board supporting new permanent Airport terminal facilities to replace current temporary facilities but not expressing a preference on any specific option as to size.]
Citing a decision of the Fair Political Practices Commission, Ms. Myown said she believes CVB boardmembers should be required to file financial disclosure forms now...a position with which the City Attorney's office disagreed.
[Following the 2003 Council proceedings regarding the CVB, Mr. Goodling kept a promise that CVB Board meetings would henceforth be open to the public. They have been. However, this stops short of Ms. Myown's position (below) in which CVB would be subject to the Brown (open meeting) Act carrying the force of law and requiring public posting of an agenda 72 hrs. before meetings, no secret meetings, etc.]
Assistant City Attorney Heather Mahood said the City Attorney's position has been and continues to be that it is within the City Council's purview to require CVB boardmembers to file the financial disclosure forms, if the Council wishes. She added that the Council could require CVB Boardmembers to file financial disclosure forms the next time the Council renews City Hall's annual contract with the CVB. Historically, that takes place each October.
In response to follow-up questioning from Councilman O'Donnell, Ms. Myown said that under case law she believes the CVB should also be required to comply with CA's freedom of information law (CA Public Records Act) and open meeting law (the Brown Act)...and urged Councilmembers to ensure this as well.
Councilwoman Gabelich said, "I absolutely support open government and I am a supporter of the 700 Form. I was one of the people that encouraged the AAC [Airport Advisory Commission] and the others to have to take part in that [filing the financial disclosure form]. I had to do it as a Recreation Commissioner and we have to do it as Councilmembers. And I think that CVB plays a very important part in our city and I would support that."
Mayor Beverly O'Neill asked Assistant City Attorney if the issue could be agendized for Council action at a later meeting. Ms. Mahood said yes. Councilman Val Lerch (who in April 2003 urged that all members of Council advisory bodies file the disclosure forms) said, "Consider it done."
LB CVB President/CEO Steve Goodling told LBReport.com he had no comment at the present time.