Weekly Recap Ethics News and Trends – January 27, 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 January 20th to January 26th:

The 85 Richest People In The World Have As Much Wealth As The 3.5 Billion Poorest

By Laura Shin, Forbes, January 23, 2014

As evidenced by the recent ballot measures to raise the minimum wage, increased attention on income inequality should remind officials that the public is also taking a harder look at how public monies are being spent.

As the World Economic Forum begins in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam International has released a new report called, “Working for the Few,” that contains some startling statistics on what it calls the “growing tide of inequality.”

Perks/Gifts/Salaries/Expenses/Public Resources:

A video primer on the McDonnell gift scandal

By Natalie Jennings, The Washington Post, January 22, 2014

Beware of gifts that bite.

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen were charged Tuesday on 14 felony counts of fraud, conspiracy and more, less than a year after The Post’s Rosalind Helderman broke the news that the couple had accepted valuable gifts from Virginia business executive Jonnie R. Williams, Sr.

Natomas trustee fined for not reporting free meals

By Diana Lambert, The Sacramento Bee, Jan. 22, 2014

Meals paid by someone other than your public agency are generally a gift, unless a gift exception applies.

Natomas Unified School District board member Lisa Kaplan has joined a list of California school officials who have been fined for receiving free meals from a bond advisory firm without disclosing them, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Sacramento gave employees undeserved subsidies for commutes, audit finds

By Ryan Lillis, The Sacramento Bee, Jan. 26, 2014

Some improper gifts do not always involve wrong doing on the part of officials. Sometimes it involves a failure to properly monitor and track benefits to prevent what amounts to double-dipping.

Dozens of Sacramento city employees received extra subsidies to help pay for their commutes in 2012, a report by the city auditor has found.

Irvine may issue subpoenas in Great Park audit

By Adolfo Flores and Samantha Schaefer, The Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2014

A park that was intended to rival Balboa Park and Golden Gate Park.

On the heels of preliminary findings in an audit of the Great Park that raised questions about the $200-million project’s finances, Irvine may start issuing subpoenas to get some answers.

Brown Act:

Lawyer: IID violates Brown Act by dropping water rates

By Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press, January 23, 2014

A case of what is an adequate agenda description under the Brown Act.

The Imperial Irrigation District may have violated a state open meeting and transparency law when the Board of Directors changed municipal water rates Tuesday, according to a media lawyer.

Campaign Finance:

“Arizona“ Dark Money Recipients Sign Judgment, Disgorge $300,000

Fair Political Practices Commission Press Release, January 24, 2014

As the political machines begin to prepare for the upcoming election cycle, more focus will be on removing the influence of dark money.

The FPPC today announced that it has entered into separate, stipulated judgments with the California Future Fund (CFF) and the Small Business Action Committee (SBAC) for disgorgement of the $4.08 and $11 million dollar “dark money” contributions they received in the 2012 election. A payment of $300,000 towards this judgment was made today by SBAC.

Lobbyist charged in San Diego campaign scandal

By Elliot Spagat, Associated Press, January 22, 2014

Unless a person is a U.S. citizen or a legal resident, it is illegal to contribute to federal, state or local election campaigns.

A lobbyist was charged in a widening scandal over more than $500,000 that allegedly was funneled illegally from a Mexican businessman to San Diego political campaigns.

- See more at: http://www.bbknowledge.com/ethics/weekly-recap-ethics-news-and-trends-january-27-2014/#sthash.fxeAJ5Lz.dpuf

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 January 20th to January 26th:

The 85 Richest People In The World Have As Much Wealth As The 3.5 Billion Poorest

By Laura Shin, Forbes, January 23, 2014

As evidenced by the recent ballot measures to raise the minimum wage, increased attention on income inequality should remind officials that the public is also taking a harder look at how public monies are being spent.

As the World Economic Forum begins in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam International has released a new report called, “Working for the Few,” that contains some startling statistics on what it calls the “growing tide of inequality.”

Perks/Gifts/Salaries/Expenses/Public Resources:

A video primer on the McDonnell gift scandal

By Natalie Jennings, The Washington Post, January 22, 2014

Beware of gifts that bite.

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen were charged Tuesday on 14 felony counts of fraud, conspiracy and more, less than a year after The Post’s Rosalind Helderman broke the news that the couple had accepted valuable gifts from Virginia business executive Jonnie R. Williams, Sr.

Natomas trustee fined for not reporting free meals

By Diana Lambert, The Sacramento Bee, Jan. 22, 2014

Meals paid by someone other than your public agency are generally a gift, unless a gift exception applies.

Natomas Unified School District board member Lisa Kaplan has joined a list of California school officials who have been fined for receiving free meals from a bond advisory firm without disclosing them, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Sacramento gave employees undeserved subsidies for commutes, audit finds

By Ryan Lillis, The Sacramento Bee, Jan. 26, 2014

Some improper gifts do not always involve wrong doing on the part of officials. Sometimes it involves a failure to properly monitor and track benefits to prevent what amounts to double-dipping.

Dozens of Sacramento city employees received extra subsidies to help pay for their commutes in 2012, a report by the city auditor has found.

Irvine may issue subpoenas in Great Park audit

By Adolfo Flores and Samantha Schaefer, The Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2014

A park that was intended to rival Balboa Park and Golden Gate Park.

On the heels of preliminary findings in an audit of the Great Park that raised questions about the $200-million project’s finances, Irvine may start issuing subpoenas to get some answers.

Brown Act:

Lawyer: IID violates Brown Act by dropping water rates

By Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press, January 23, 2014

A case of what is an adequate agenda description under the Brown Act.

The Imperial Irrigation District may have violated a state open meeting and transparency law when the Board of Directors changed municipal water rates Tuesday, according to a media lawyer.

Campaign Finance:

“Arizona“ Dark Money Recipients Sign Judgment, Disgorge $300,000

Fair Political Practices Commission Press Release, January 24, 2014

As the political machines begin to prepare for the upcoming election cycle, more focus will be on removing the influence of dark money.

The FPPC today announced that it has entered into separate, stipulated judgments with the California Future Fund (CFF) and the Small Business Action Committee (SBAC) for disgorgement of the $4.08 and $11 million dollar “dark money” contributions they received in the 2012 election. A payment of $300,000 towards this judgment was made today by SBAC.

Lobbyist charged in San Diego campaign scandal

By Elliot Spagat, Associated Press, January 22, 2014

Unless a person is a U.S. citizen or a legal resident, it is illegal to contribute to federal, state or local election campaigns.

A lobbyist was charged in a widening scandal over more than $500,000 that allegedly was funneled illegally from a Mexican businessman to San Diego political campaigns.

 

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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