Weekly Recap Ethics News and Trends – February 10, 2014

by Best Best & Krieger LLP
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Public servants with the utmost integrity also need to be aware of what is happening ethically around the state. In today’s climate, every public agency’s image is impacted by the missteps or misconduct of others. Below you’ll find a sample of recent news stories about ethical principles, values, and ethics laws. One of the best practices available to all of us is to learn from the mistakes or stories of others.

Here is a sample of the stories from February 1st to February 7th:

STATE LEGISLATURE

Senate still won’t expel guilty member

By Steven Greenhut, U-T San Diego, February 5, 2014

After Sen. Rod Wright was convicted of eight felonies last week, one could sense shock as the breaking news was whispered across the Senate chambers.  Wright, a business-friendly Democrat who is popular on both sides of the aisle, was prosecuted for not living in the Inglewood-area district he represents. Unlike the U.S. Congress, the California Legislature has district-residency rules.

Independent candidate for Secretary of State Dan Schnur urges Senators Padilla and Yee to lead efforts to expel Senator Wright

By 4Schnur! Dan Schnur Secretary of State 2014, February 4, 2014

Independent candidate for Secretary of State, Dan Schnur, urges State Senators to lead efforts for removing Senator Rod Wright from office following his felony conviction.

Former FPPC Chairman and independent candidate for Secretary of State Dan Schnur sent the following letter today to Senators Alex Padilla and Leland Yee urging them to lead efforts to expel Senator Wright from the California Senate.  Yee and Padilla are the only two legislators running for the office which regulates California’s elections and campaign finance reporting.

PERKS/GIFTS/SALARIES/EXPENSES/PUBLIC RESOURCES

DWP union chief D’Arcy’s move to release audits termed ‘not good enough’

By Rick Orlov, Los Angeles Daily News, February 6, 2014

Ongoing concerns over the lack of clarity on how taxpayer monies were used by DWP.

The overture by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 chief Brian D’Arcy to “clear the air” in the ongoing dispute over two trusts funded by the Department of Water and Power drew criticism on Thursday for not offering anything new to city officials about how money was spent.

California Republican trying to kill rail project that could devalue family farmland

By Travis Gettys, The Raw Story, January 31, 2014

Possible conflict of interest issues arise when public officials fail to disclose personal connections to projects.

A congressional ethics watchdog has again called for an investigation of a California lawmaker who criticized a high-speed rail line that could reduce the value of property he owns.  Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) renewed its request Monday after Rep. David Valado (R-CA) testified earlier this month in opposition to the rail project during a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

A ‘climate of fear’ at OC Public Works

By Tony Saavedra and Mike Reicher, OC Register, February 3, 2014

Orange County’s $53 million Public Works Department-where former executive Carlos Bustamante allegedly sexually assaulted female employees-was plagued by favoritism, unprofessional conduct and hostility, according to previously secret documents released by the county after a judge’s order.

FPPC

FPPC: ‘Worst ever’ violations in 2013

By John Howard, Capitol Weekly, February 5, 2014

Summary of annual report by the FPPC’s Enforcement Division says political campaigns and lobbying violations were at the highest levels ever in 2013.

A year-end report of California’s campaign law enforcer includes hundreds of violations, ranging from failure to report donations to money laundering to the infusion of millions of dollars in stealth cash to influence measures on the 2012 ballot.

Sacramento lobbying firm fined for lavish fundraisers with lawmakers

By Laurel Rosenhall and David Siders, Sacramento Bee, February 7, 2014

California places strict limits on lobbyists and restricts them from giving state government officials gifts of more than $10 in a month or any campaign contributions.  Elaborate events, such as the fundraisers given by Sacramento lobbying firm Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates, can amount to prohibited nonmonetary campaign contributions.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission is issuing warning letters to as many as 40 state elected officials after reaching a tentative agreement to fine a firm headed by a Sacramento lobbyist who held lavish fundraisers for politicians at his home.

Ravi Singh Charged With Election Fraud

By Anju Kaur, Sikh News Network, January 30, 2014

Ravneet Singh, founder of ElectionMail, an Internet-based campaign-services company, was arrested on Jan. 17 by FBI agents for allegedly facilitating nearly $300,000 in illegal foreign contributions to two candidates in San Diego’s 2012 mayoral race.

PUBLIC RECORDS ACT

San Bruno sues PUC, seeking records about PG&E fatal explosion fine

By George Avalos, San Jose Mercury News, February 4, 2014

City files lawsuit claiming CPUC has refused to comply with the Public Records Act by failing to provide public documents regarding the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion. The city of San Bruno, site of a deadly natural gas explosion caused by PG&E, on Tuesday sued the state Public Utilities Commission to force the release of documents that the city says will shed light on what it describes as a cozy relationship between the regulatory agency and the giant utility it oversees.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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