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

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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

 

 

Watchdog group seeks ethics reforms at Sacramento City Hall

CITY BEAT

SEPTEMBER 2, 2015

HIGHLIGHTS

Eye on Sacramento says city has ‘tremendous vacuum of accountability’

Group wants city to adopt plan, but will go to ballot if needed

Ethics, redistricting commissions part of recommendations

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.

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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

view/download … Fire Alarm … Ambulance Reform Would Challenge Firefighters Union

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Press Conference On Suit to Halt City of Sacramento’s Mass Deletion of City E-mails

MEDIA RELEASE

Date/Time: July 23, 2015; 11:00 a.m.
Contacts: Erik Smitt, Policy Director,
Eye on Sacramento
E-mail: erik@eyeonsacramento.org
Phone: (916) 215-2275

Paul Nicholas Boylan, Attorney,
E-mail: PNBoylan@gmail.com
Phone: (530) 297-7184

Eye on Sacramento Holds Press Conference at County Courthouse

On Suit to Halt City of Sacramento’s Mass Deletion of City E-mails

At a press conference today, Eye On Sacramento, a member of the growing community coalition advocating for robust ethics, transparency and redistricting reform of City government, provided  updates on the lawsuit against the City of Sacramento to enforce the California Public Records Act (CPRA) to prevent the City from deleting over 50 million emails that form an irreplaceable part of the public record.

A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was granted by the Honorable Judge Shelleyanne W. L. Chang on July 7, which restrained the City from destroying these emails on Wednesday, July 8, as the City had planned.

The hearing for the Permanent Injunction will take place at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse, 720 9th Street, Sacramento, tomorrow, Friday, July 24, 2:30 pm, Department 24, the Honorable Judge Shelleyanne W. L. Chang presiding.

The Petitioners are asking Judge Chang to issue a Permanent Injunction preventing the City from erasing the public record and destroying the emails the petitioners want to access.  If the City destroys these emails, the public’s constitutional right to access these emails will be irrevocably injured and the City will be in violation of the California Public Records Act.

The Petitioners in the lawsuit are Richard Stevenson, a member of Eye on Sacramento, and Katy Grimes, Journalist.  Both Petitioners have filed formal requests to access emails the City intends on destroying and are suing the City under the CPRA to enforce their rights to gain access to these records.  The Petitioners, through attorney Paul Boylan, have made tireless efforts to reach an agreement with the City Attorney; those efforts have failed.

Since the TRO, Eye on Sacramento has contacted several City Council-members to resolve the issues through the enactment of new City policies that would mandate that City officials preserve City e-mails. Councilmembers will not speak with EOS on the advice of the City Attorney.

“It is clear that the City’s issues with e-mail storage space are a mere front for the objective of erasing history and covering up the past.” Erik Smitt, Policy Director.

“Eye on Sacramento is focused on transparency and citizen access to all mechanisms of government.  Deletion of public records is contrary to the principles of open government and the public’s right to know.” Erik Smitt, Policy Director.

Concurrently with the press conference, Paul Boylan, attorney for the petitioners in the case, issued the following statement: “The discussions I have had with the City have been productive, but only up to a point that is far short of resolving this conflict.  I am left with the impression that the City’s only goal is to destroy as many emails as possible and is gaming the system to achieve that goal.  The City’s goal should be preservation of public records. Thus far, the City has demonstrated no pressing need to destroy anything.”

Open Government … transparent, responsive, accountable!

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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.

Lawsuit to Enforce the California Public Records Act (CPRA)

MEDIA RELEASE

July 6, 2015

Contact:

Erik Smitt, Policy Director, 916-215-2275, Erik@ eyeonsacramento.org

Paul Nicholas Boylan, Attorney, 530-297-7184, PNBoylan@gmail.com

In a press release today Eye On Sacramento, a member of the community coalition advocating for robust ethics, transparency and redistricting reform of City government, notifies the press that a lawsuit has been filed with the Sacramento County Superior Court seeking to enforce the California Public Records Act (CPRA), and an application has been made for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to prevent the City of Sacramento from deleting emails that form a critical, irreplaceable part of the public record.

If the application for a TRO is denied, the City will destroy these emails on Wednesday, July 8.

The hearing for the TRO will take place at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse, 720 9th Street, Sacramento, on July 7, 2:30 pm, Department 24, the Honorable Judge Shelleyanne W. L. Chang presiding.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Richard Stevenson, member of Eye On Sacramento and Katy Grimes, Journalist.  Both Plaintiffs have made formal requests to access to emails the City intends on destroying on July 8 and are suing the City under the CPRA to enforce their rights to gain access to these records.

Plaintiffs are asking Judge Chang to issue a TRO preventing the City from destroying the emails Plaintiffs want to access because, if the City destroys these emails, the lawsuit will be rendered moot and Plaintiffs’ – and the public’s – constitutional right to access these emails will be irrevocably injured.

“My clients understand the City’s desire to manage the City’s email archive,” said Paul Nicholas Boylan, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the CPRA enforcement lawsuit. “But the City’s interest can’t violate the public’s fundamental right to access public records. The City’s plan to destroy these emails after my clients have asked to see them is like a librarian burning down an entire library because a member of the public has asked to check out  and read one book,” Boylan said. “It is unthinkable that this might actually happen.”

As noted in news reports of an ongoing trial in Sacramento Superior Court, public officials have deleted records even after legal notifications to preserve those same records.  Eye On Sacramento supports Richard Stevenson and Katy Grimes in their lawsuit to enforce the California Public Records Act and their application for a restraining order to prevent the City of Sacramento from destroying public records.

“Eye On Sacramento is focused on transparency and citizen access to all mechanisms of government.  Deletion of public records is contrary to the principles of Open Government and the public’s right to know.” Erik Smitt, Policy Director.

Open Government … transparent, responsive, accountable!

 

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Implement a six month moratorium on deletion of any emails at the City of Sacramento.

Sign the petition to the City of Sacramento

The City of Sacramento plans to start deleting emails.  These are a record of City actions and the source of information to the public under the Public Records Act.

Once the emails are destroyed, there will be no evidence.

Eye On Sacramento needs time to prepare an Open Government project to pull back the curtain on City secrecy.

Sign here

Eye On Sacramento calls for Moratorium on deletion of City of Sacramento e-mails … in the news …

Press coverage of the Eye On Sacramento press conference regarding City of Sacramento e-mail deletion.

City of Sacramento to delete old emails News 10 ABC

Group Asks City To Delay Deleting Emails  Capital Public Radio

Don’t rush into email purge  Sacramento Bee

Sacramento City to Delete All its Emails  KFBK News Radio

City Ethics and Transparency Reform Project

Sign the petition to the City of Sacramento, here

Lawsuit Filed in Sacramento County Superior Court to Enforce the California Public Records Act

MEDIA RELEASE

July 6, 2015
Contact:
Erik Smitt, Policy Director, 916-215-2275, Erik@ eyeonsacramento.org
Paul Nicholas Boylan, Attorney, 530-297-7184, PNBoylan@gmail.com

In a press release today Eye On Sacramento, a member of the community coalition advocating for robust ethics, transparency and redistricting reform of City government, notifies the press that a lawsuit has been filed with the Sacramento County Superior Court seeking to enforce the California Public Records Act (CPRA), and an application has been made for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to prevent the City of Sacramento from deleting emails that form a critical, irreplaceable part of the public record.

If the application for a TRO is denied, the City will destroy these emails on Wednesday, July 8.

The hearing for the TRO will take place at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse, 720 9th Street, Sacramento, on July 7, 2:30 pm, Department 24, the Honorable Judge Shelleyanne W. L. Chang presiding.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Richard Stevenson, member of Eye On Sacramento and Katy Grimes, President of the Sacramento Taxpayer’s Association. Both Plaintiffs have made formal requests to access to emails the City intends on destroying on July 8 and are suing the City under the CPRA to enforce their rights to gain access to these records.

Plaintiffs are asking Judge Chang to issue a TRO preventing the City from destroying the emails Plaintiffs want to access because, if the City destroys these emails, the lawsuit will be rendered moot and Plaintiffs’ – and the public’s – constitutional right to access these emails will be irrevocably injured.

“My clients understand the City’s desire to manage the City’s email archive,” said Paul Nicholas Boylan, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the CPRA enforcement lawsuit. “But the City’s interest can’t violate the public’s fundamental right to access public records. The City’s plan to destroy these emails after my clients have asked to see them is like a librarian burning down an entire library because a member of the public has asked to check out and read one book,” Boylan said. “It is unthinkable that this might actually happen.”

As noted in news reports of an ongoing trial in Sacramento Superior Court, public officials have deleted records even after legal notifications to preserve those same records. Eye On Sacramento supports Richard Stevenson and Katy Grimes in their lawsuit to enforce the California Public Records Act and their application for a restraining order to prevent the City of Sacramento from destroying public records.

“Eye On Sacramento is focused on transparency and citizen access to all mechanisms of government. Deletion of public records is contrary to the principles of Open Government and the public’s right to know.” Erik Smitt, Policy Director.

Open Government … transparent, responsive, accountable!

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