Sacramento needs real ethics reform, not city’s fake version

SOAPBOX

OCTOBER 4, 2015

City Council is finalizing a package of proposals on ethics and open government

Eye on Sacramento says its reforms are much more robust

Public won’t be satisfied with weak changes

A bitter divorce on ethics reform

FOON RHEE

SEPTEMBER 30, 2015

Eye on Sacramento and League of Women Voters joined forces to push City Hall

But after holding 10 public forums, the two groups disagreed on policy and tactics

Now, league is backing city plan, while watchdog group is mulling ballot measure

BY FOON RHEE

Sacramento City Council ethics reform is a must

EDITORIALS  SEPTEMBER 7, 2015

HIGHLIGHTS

Watchdog group’s ethics recommendations should not be dismissed

Public accountability and access are properly the focus of recommendations

Ironically, City Council committee has been discussing ethics behind close doors

IMG_J_JV_051215_COUNCIL__2_1_MP4QAIUU_L126192555

Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren was replaced as leader of the council’s ethics reform effort after news of a sexual harassment claim against him. Warren has denied his former aide’s allegations. José Luis Villegas jvillegas@sacbee.com

BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD

As Sacramento’s elected officials hem and haw, a local watchdog group has set the bar on transparency and ethics reform.

After holding public forums with the League of Women Voters, Eye on Sacramento is calling for four major changes at City Hall:

▪ An open government ordinance that guarantees and increases public access and accountability. It includes keeping all city emails for at least 10 years, requiring ad hoc City Council committees to meet in public and adding an independent city auditor, not one appointed by the council.

▪ A city ethics code, including strict rules on nepotism, conflicts of interest and sexual harassment, plus a cap on donations made to charities at the behest of elected officials. That would hamstring Mayor Kevin Johnson, who has persuaded donors to contribute huge sums to charities of his choice.

▪ An independent ethics commission, likely appointed by retired judges, to enforce the code and state ethics laws. It would have the power to subpoena records, compel witnesses to testify under oath and to fine and censure officials, or even seek to kick them out of office.

▪ An independent redistricting commission to draw City Council districts. There should be no doubt this is needed for the 2020 Census after the fiasco after the 2010 count. The council appointed a citizens committee, but ignored its maps and approved its own.

These are reasonable ideas deserving of serious consideration by a City Council committee, which was appointed by the mayor and is supposed to issue its report later this month.

We don’t know exactly what the council panel has in mind because it has been meeting in private – which is amazingly hypocritical.

The mayor’s spokesman assures us the council’s recommendations will reflect all citizens’ values, not just those of a special interest group. Eye on Sacramento’s proposals should not be dismissed lightly.

If the council does not approve reforms, Eye on Sacramento is prepared to go to the ballot in 2016. It would be far better if council members and the group’s leaders can agree on a plan. Whether in office or outside City Hall, everyone should want a more open and ethical government.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/editorials/article34326018.html

 

 

Eye on Sacramento Releases Package of Proposed City Reforms

MEDIA RELEASE

For Immediate Release
Release Date/Time: September 2, 2015; 10:15 a.m.
Contact: Craig Powell, President, Eye on Sacramento
E-mail: craig@eyeonsacramento.org
Phone: (916) 718-3030

Erik Smitt, EOS Policy Director
E-mail: erik@eyeonsacramento.org
Phone: (916) 215-2275

Restoring Accountability:

Eye on Sacramento Releases Package of Proposed

City Ethics, Transparency and Redistricting Reforms

At a press conference this morning, local government watchdog group Eye on Sacramento (EOS) presented a package of ethics, transparency and redistricting reforms proposals for the City of Sacramento.

“The reform proposals we are releasing today are the culmination of ten very well-attended public forums held in every part of Sacramento earlier this year, followed by three months of extensive research and careful deliberation by our numerous volunteers and study groups, “said EOS president Craig Powell.  “These reforms are designed to make Sacramento the most open, transparent and ethically accountable municipal government in California and to help restore citizens’ trust in their city government.  It’s a package in which we, as citizens and residents of Sacramento, can take real pride,” Powell added.

The package includes summaries of each of the “Four Pillars of Reform:”

(1) A cutting edge Sunshine Ordinance that will make it easier for residents to participate, and have a more effective role, in City decision-making and will open up City government records and data to public review and media scrutiny to the greatest extent practicable;

(2) An Ethics Code that will set minimal standards of ethical conduct expected of our city officials;

(3) An independent and empowered Ethics Commission that will have the means and authority to hold public officials accountable for misconduct and to exonerate them whenever they’re subjected to unsubstantiated claims, through the application of rules that will provide strong due process protections; and

(4) An independent citizens Redistricting Commission that will, at long last, bring an end to the unhealthy and undemocratic practice of councilmembers drawing their own council district lines (aka picking their own voters) and shift that power to a panel of citizens who will have final authority to draw council district boundaries.

Also presented was a 12-page “Summary of Public Comment” (copy attached), that recaps the numerous comments received from the public at our Kick-Off Forum in February, our seven District Forums and our final Work Shop Forum at the Clunie Clubhouse on May 17th.  The forums were jointly sponsored by EOS and the League of Women Voters, as well as 23 co-sponsoring community organizations.

Public Disclosure of Proposals Before Closed-Door Negotiations With City Officials

“Representatives of our reform effort are expecting to meet within the next few days with city officials in closed door meetings to discuss our reform proposals in detail, to explore common ground and to, hopefully, reach agreement on the adoption/endorsement of a set of reforms that are mutually acceptable to all parties,” Powell said.

“Before our representatives go behind closed doors to negotiate these proposals, however, we feel we have an obligation to first release our reform proposals to our forum attendees, our supporters, the media and the public at large,” Powell added.  “The public deserves to know exactly where we stand at the beginning of these negotiations so that they can assess where we end up at the end of them,” Powell concluded.

Plan B: A Ballot Initiative

“We’re pursuing these reforms on two different, but parallel, tracks.  Given the significant time and effort it takes to qualify an initiative for the November 2016 general election ballot, we’re entering into negotiations with city officials in pursuit of a mutual agreement while we’re concurrently taking the steps necessary to qualify our reform proposals for the November 2016 ballot,” said Powell.  “It is our great preference that we reach an acceptable agreement with city officials, but we’re doing the necessary ground work to bring our reform proposals before Sacramento voters in November 2016,” Powell added.

“Given the growing number of claims asserted against councilmembers, the city auditor’s recent finding of nepotism in the Department of Utilities, the city’s efforts this year to mass delete 85 million e-mails, the alleged use of city staff and resources for political purposes and the shrouding of city e-mails via the use of private e-mail accounts, the need to establish accountability in city government through effective ethics, transparency and redistricting reforms is acute,” Powell concluded.

####

To view/download a copy of the Media Release click here
To view/download a copy of the Sunshine Ordinance Summary click here
To view/download a copy of the Ethics Code Summary click here
To view/download a copy of the Ethics Commission Summary click here
To view/download a copy of the Redistricting Commission Summary click here
To view/download a copy of the 12-page “Summary of Public Comment” click here

Fire Alarm … Ambulance Reform Would Challenge Firefighters Union

By Craig Powell

In some sense, the city’s fire department is a 20th century relic operating in a 21st century world. And with its entrenched practices staunchly protected against change by what’s acknowledged to be the city’s most powerful union, Fire Fighters Local 522, the fire department has been essentially immune to efforts by city officials to drag it into modernity. Few have even tried to reform it; none has come anywhere close to succeeding.

To his credit, freshman Councilmember Jeff Harris has stepped up to the plate and is making cost-saving reform of the city’s ambulance service, operated by the fire department, a major priority. What’s more, he may very well succeed where most haven’t even bothered to try.

Why is the fire department so resistant to change? Fire chief Walt White is only the 21st chief in the department’s 165-year history. And he’s the first chief in city history to be appointed from outside of the ranks of the fire department. Organizational change is not exactly a prevailing value in the fire department. White didn’t have to travel far to take the job. Before joining the fire department last year, White spent his career with the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, a nearby district with a long history of paying firefighter salaries that are among the highest in California and a district board dominated by members elected with the financial support of Local 522.

Apart from history and tradition, the status quo in the fire department is vociferously defended by Local 522, whose political action committee typically brings in $150,000 annually and whose cash balance stood at $330,000 at the end of last year. It showers money on candidates for city council. When Angelique Ashby ran for the council in 2010, Local 522 not only gave her campaign $6,500; it spent another $26,826 in an independent expenditure campaign on her behalf. Such outsized political “investments” buy influence and power.

read more … Fire Alarm … Ambulance Reform Would Challenge Firefighters Union

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Judge orders Sacramento to save 15 million emails

Mass deletions put on hold in court decision

No timeline for email release

Other emails on city affairs will need new request

City Hall 2

In an effort to stop Sacramento from deleting hundreds of emails, watchdog group Eye on Sacramento has sued the city and requested a temporary restraining order preventing city staffers from deleting any correspondence. | Jose Luis Villegas Sacramento Bee file

BY DARRELL SMITH

dvsmith@sacbee.com

The city of Sacramento must preserve 15 million emails on its server for review, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled Friday in a victory for two Sacramentans who requested access to the city-stored information.

After nearly two hours of argument Friday, and amid Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang’s own concerns that the petitioners’ request for records represented “a moving target,” the judge granted a preliminary injunction ordering the city to save the emails. Chang also levied an $80,000 undertaking – an $8,000 bond that plaintiffs must pay the city to review the records. Chang in June granted a temporary restraining order stopping the city from deleting the emails, giving both sides time to work out an agreement to provide the records.

“As of July 1, the city was going to destroy the emails. As of today, they’re going to save 15 million. That’s pretty good,” said attorney Paul Nicholas Boylan, who represented Sacramento residents Katy Grimes and Richard Stevenson, following the afternoon hearing.

Grimes and Stevenson filed separate public records requests in June for emails the city planned to delete as irrelevant to the public record. Grimes had asked for city emails from Jan. 1, 2008, to present, while Stevenson requested emails that were to be deleted July 1 as part of the city’s planned move to another email system.

“We’re happy with the 15 million. It’s a big victory for the public,” Boylan said.

THE JUDGE ORDERED US TO DO WHAT WE WERE WILLING TO DO. WE’RE WILLING TO RELEASE PUBLIC RECORDS

Sacramento City Attorney James Sanchez, following Chang’s ruling

Chang, however, said Stevenson must file a new public records request for city-stored emails pertaining to city pension and retirement; Measures Q and R (the failed ballot initiatives that would have raised the sales tax to help pay for a downtown arena); and so-called “release time” – the on-job time city employees can dedicate to union and other activities.

City attorneys argued that the requests were an effort to dictate how the city retains its information and repeated its June argument that the plaintiffs’ requests were overly broad and too heavy a burden for city staff to meet. They also said emails needed to be culled from the present system before others are migrated into a new system in a process to proceed as early as August.

During the hearing, city attorneys did not indicate how long it would take to fulfill the request.

“It’s going to take us to 2030” to fulfill the email requests, Supervising Deputy City Attorney Gustavo Martinez said during the hearing, “because we have to review them all. The fact that we’ve offered 15 million (emails) is amazing. I don’t know of a city that’s done that.”

“The petitioners want to dictate the policy of the city of Sacramento,” Martinez continued. “We can’t allow two people to stop, halt and interfere with the affairs of the city. ”

But Boylan argued that the records request was not an attack on city policy, but an assertion of his plaintiffs’ right to review the emails.

“There is no greater denial of a record than destroying it before someone can see it,” Boylan told Chang. “Public records are the public’s property. We want access to as many records as possible.”

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040@dvaughnsmith

 

 

 

 

Restraining Order Against City Of Sacramento Delays Email Deletion

Capital Public Radio

Capital Public Radio

 

A judge has issued a temporary restraining order barring the City of Sacramento from deleting its old emails for 22 days. The city had planned to begin deletions Wednesday.

Richard Stevenson filed a Public Records Act request to see all of the emails and sued to preserve them.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge granted the restraining order but says Stevenson must narrow his request by 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Stevenson says he’s pleased with the restraining order and hopes it provides enough time for the city council to change the city’s email deletion policy.

“It gives a chance for the city council, which returns on the fourteenth,” says Stevenson. “See, this came up when the city clerk’s boss, the city council, was in recess, which means there was no chance to appeal to the council.”

Stevenson and a second plaintiff say they will attempt to provide the city with a gift of storage so that it can preserve all emails dating back to 1997.

The city attorney’s office could not say if there is no legal reason the city could not accept or use such a gift.

Bob Moffitt

Sacramento Region Reporter

Bob is the Sacramento Region Reporter. He has been at the forefront of the coverage of the Sacramento Kings’ saga and the effort to build a new arena in Sacramento. He also covers education, business, environment, and sports stories.

Expansive Plans … The mayor’s budget message proposes wide-ranging ideas

Published on Wednesday, 01 April 2015

Expansive Plans

The mayor’s budget message proposes wide-ranging ideas

By Craig Powell

As I wrote last month, the mayor and city council have taken aggressive steps in the past few months to assert much greater front-end control over both the city budget and the city manager (hiring an independent budget analyst, forming a new council budget committee, public outreach on budget matters). But the process changes were just the beginning. On March 10, the mayor took the unprecedented step of releasing a “Mayor’s Message on Budget Priorities” that lays out what is likely the most expansive plan ever proposed for the role of city government in Sacramento. It proposes a cautious approach to city spending and debt management in the near future while proposing more than a dozen new and unprecedented programs and initiatives.

Notably, the mayor’s plan was not the product of deliberation and consensus by the council’s new budget and audit committee. Instead, it is the mayor’s own vision and was slated for initial council review late last month. If it ends up being approved by the council, it will represent marching orders to city manager John Shirey on how to draw up the city budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1.

The central premise of Johnson’s plan is that the city must exercise spending caution in the short term as the city nears a fiscal cliff in 2019 (due to escalating pension contributions and expiration of the Measure U half-percent sales tax hike), but that the city must ultimately fix its fiscal problems by taking aggressive steps to grow the local economy, resulting in higher city tax revenues. His ideas for growing the local economic pie are bold: He proposes a slew of new investments, plans and programs that, if approved, would inject the city more assertively into local economic development than ever before.

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Eye On Sacramento and the League of Women Voters to Host Public Forum on City Ethics & Transparency Reform at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 25th at the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library

Eye On Sacramento (EOS) and League of Women Voters (LWV) are pleased to announce the next public forum on City Ethics & Transparency Reform Project at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25th at the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library, 7335 Gloria Drive. The public is invited and encouraged to share ideas and ask questions on ethics, transparency and redistricting reforms for our city.

Attendees will be hearing the results of a survey conducted by a team of EOS & LWV researchers and presented by EOS President Craig Powell and LWV President Paula Lee.  City Council Member Rick Jennings, Terry Francke, Californians Aware, and Bill Edger, retired Sacramento City Manager, will be on hand to critique the findings, offer their insights and answer questions from the public.  Lisa Garcia, EOS Community Outreach Director, will be the moderator.

We encourage you to share the event flyer (found here) with others who may be interested in attending the forum.

Eye On Sacramento and the League of Women Voters to Host Public Forum on City Ethics & Transparency Reform at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 16th at the Sierra 2 Center

Eye On Sacramento (EOS) and League of Women Voters (LWV) are pleased to announce the next public forum on City Ethics & Transparency Reform Project at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 16th at the Sierra 2 Center, Garden Room, located at 2791  24th Street. The public is invited and encouraged to share ideas and ask questions on ethics, transparency and redistricting reforms for our city.

Attendees will be hearing the results of a survey conducted by a team of EOS & LWV researchers and presented by EOS President Craig Powell and LWV President Paula Lee. City Council Member Jay Schenirer, Terry Francke, Californians Aware, Bill Edger, and retired Sacramento City Manager, will be on hand to critique the findings, offer their insights and answer questions from the public.  Lisa Garcia, EOS Community Outreach Director, will be the moderator.

We encourage you to share the event flyer (found here) with others who may be interested in attending the forum.