Weekly Recap Ethics News and Trends – February 24, 2014


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 15th to February 21st:


Tom Tait Contracts With OCTA; Should He Be on Its Board?

Adam Elmahrek, Voice of OC, February 19, 2014

Serious conflict of interest issues arise when a board member of a transportation authority receives financial benefits from his engineering firm’s contracts with the transportation authority. Under Government Code section 1090, public officials must disclose their financial interests and abstain from discussing or voting on new contracts from which they may receive financial gain. Public agencies may not enter into any such contract, and any contract signed by a public agency board in violation of Section 1090 is void.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has drawn fire for serving on the Orange County Transportation Authority board of directors while his engineering firm is a contractor for the agency. A special countywide selection committee, on which Tait serves, voted to appoint him to the Transportation Authority’s board last November. The decision triggered political backlash from his critics, who pointed out that the Transportation Authority’s $330,144 contract with Tait Environmental Services for work on underground storage tanks presents a conflict of interest.


California campaign finance reporting bills on verge of governor’s desk

Jeremy B. White, The Sacramento Bee, February 20, 2014

Campaign finance reform legislation specifically targeting politically active nonprofits may be approved by the Governor in time for this year’s election.

A pair of bills requiring greater transparency from electioneering nonprofits are one step away from Gov. Jerry Brown. Lawmakers have sought to fortify campaign spending rules since out-of-state nonprofit groups poured $11 million into the 2012 election cycle, a flexing of financial muscle that eventually earned the entities a $1 million California Fair Political Practices Commission fine.

Wayward lobbyist is part of the Capitol money machine

Dan Morain, The Sacramento Bee, February 16, 2014

Lobbyist Kevin Sloat, the latest Capitol insider to be outed by his own hubris, apparently thought he needed an edge, whether he did or not. A veteran of more than two decades in politics, Sloat built one of the most prominent lobby operations in town, not to mention a fancy Arden Arcade mansion, created to host lavish fundraisers for legislators and other high officials.

Settlement of lobbyist Kevin Sloat’s case falls short, key lawyer says

Patrick McGreevy and Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times, February 20, 2014

An attorney who aided an investigation that resulted in fines against lobbyist Kevin Sloat said the settlement of the matter approved Thursday by the state Fair Political Practices Commission falls short and fails to address some of the most serious allegations involving elected officials. “It’s not sufficient,” attorney Jesse Ortiz. “I think Mr. Sloat should be held accountable for all of his actions and not just some of them, which is what the FPPC decided to do.”


Acknowledge when a Brown Act violation occurs

Carol Feineman, Lincoln News Messenger, February 20, 2014

Brown Act violations are raised when 24 hours’ notice is provided that a city council meeting will be moved to a new location. The Brown Act requires meeting agendas be posted at least 72 hours before a regular meeting, and agendas must specify the time and location of the meeting. However, Government Code Section 54954(e) permits meetings to be held at another location if it is unsafe to meet in the regular meeting place. To do so, the presiding officer of the legislative body must designate the alternative meeting place in a notice to the local media by the most rapid means of communication available at the time.

Lincoln City Council and Lincoln city attorney Jon Hobbs owe resident Byron Chapman an apology. Chapman was treated appallingly at the Feb. 11 City Council meeting by the city representatives when he pointed out an alleged Brown Act violation. During the first part of the meeting, Chapman asked the councilmen if the meeting’s change of location that night from the McBean Park Pavilion to City Hall was properly disclosed, according to Brown Act code section 54954.2(a)(1).



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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