Weekly Recap Ethics News and Trends – February 3, 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 25th to January 31st:

STATE LEGISLATURE:

Sen. Ronald Calderon raises $28,000 for legal defense fund

By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, January 31, 2014

Bribery is a very serious criminal allegation. It can apply to the person who both offers a bribe and to the person who seeks or takes a bribe. A simple offer is sufficient to violate the law. There is no need for money to actually change hands. Investigators will take into account both direct and circumstantial evidence surrounding any type of related transaction.

State Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello) has raised $28,000 for his legal defense fund as he faces an FBI investigation into allegations that he accepted bribes in exchange for action on legislation.

Ethics panel briefed by independent counsel on Sen. Ronald S. Calderon
By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2014

No actual crimes charged, but investigation continues.

The state Senate’s ethics panel was briefed behind closed doors Monday by an independent counsel on his investigation into misconduct allegations involving Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello).

State Sen. Roderick Wright found guilty of perjury, voter fraud

By Jean Merl, Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2014

This year a new law (AB 2410) went into effect which says that people cannot run for office if convicted of accepting a bribe or committing voter fraud or perjury. Before January 1st, the list of felonies that made someone ineligible for public office did not include felony counts of perjury.

A Los Angeles jury Tuesday found state Sen. Roderick D. Wright, a fixture in area Democratic politics, guilty on eight felony counts of perjury and voter fraud.

Also on Political Law Update Blog, Senator Wright Convicted of Perjury and Voter Fraud

Number of women dropping in California Legislature

By Don Thompson, Associated Press, January 26, 2014 (Re-posted on rtumble.com on January 27, 2014)

When women are the majority of California’s population, the fact that the number of women in our state legislature is shrinking is a cause of great concern.   

The California Legislature is generally regarded as a fairly progressive institution, with a sizable gay and lesbian caucus and lawmakers representing an array of racial and ethnic groups. But one group has been dropping steadily in representation for nearly a decade – women.

California’s ‘wall of debt’ is only a slice of its liability problem

By Jessica Calefati, San Jose Mercury News, January 26, 2014 (Re-posted on rtumble.com on January 27, 2014)

Fiscal realities can put tremendous pressures on our elected officials and the options available to them as leaders.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s image as a responsible, penny-pinching steward of California’s finances has been cemented in recent weeks because of his renewed call to pay off California’s “wall of debt.”

PERKS/GIFTS/SALARIES/EXPENSES/PUBLIC RESOURCES:

District attorney joins battle over DWP nonprofit spending records

By Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2014

Expanded resources dedicated to on-going investigation regarding the use of taxpayer monies.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has confirmed its prosecutors and criminal investigators are joining a City Hall effort to determine how two controversial Department of Water and Power nonprofits have spent more than $40 million in ratepayer money.

Mayor picks new DWP boss, ousts another top utility executive

By Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2014

And in related news:

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday continued his effort to overhaul the leadership of the city’s much-criticized municipal utility and curb the influence of its powerful employees union by nominating a new agency boss and dismissing a top-ranking executive.

FPPC:

Current investigations in the news:

State Watchdog Clears Former Chairman of CalOptima Board

By Tracy Wood, Voice of OC, January 28, 2014

The state Fair Political Practices Commission has closed its investigation of former CalOptima board of directors Chairman Ed Kacic, saying there was insufficient evidence of any wrongdoing.

FPPC files suit against Encinitas publisher

By U-T San Diego, January 28, 2014

The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission is suing Coast News publisher Jim Kydd, alleging he violated California election law in the months leading up to the 2012 election.

BROWN ACT:

Disgruntled Uptown merchants sue association board, City Council

By Peter Fullam, Whittier Daily News, January 28, 2014

Certain nonprofits may be considered legislative bodies for purposes of the Brown Act.

The group Citizens for Transparency in Uptown is suing the Whittier City Council and the Whittier Uptown Association’s board of directors for alleged violations of the Brown Act, California’s open government law.

PUBLIC RECORDS ACT:

City attorney sued regarding private emails

By Dorian Hargrove, San Diego Reader, Jan. 29, 2014

Warning: Use of private emails for public business by a public official may transform those items into public records.

The battle with San Diego city attorney Jan Goldsmith over public records requests is heating up.

 

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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