Sunday, August 6, 2017

[San Diego County] San Diego boosts qualifications for Ethics Commission members

Blog note: this article states that the San Diego City Council’s action was in response to a grand jury report.
San Diego is boosting the qualifications for membership on its Ethics Commission, a seven-member watchdog panel that enforces the city’s laws covering campaign finance, lobbying and governmental ethics.
The City Council this week approved four changes that aim to boost the experience and expertise of the commission’s members, who are nominated by the mayor and then approved by the City Council.
And a fifth change with the same goal is scheduled for council consideration in September.
The council on Monday increased from two to three the minimum number of attorneys that must serve on the panel, and increased from one to two the minimum number of people who must have held elective office, run for office or worked on a campaign.
The council also amended the commission’s rules to say that “priority consideration” will be given to nominees familiar with campaign finance laws, government ethics, lobbying laws and conflict-of-interest regulations.
In addition, the council clarified that rules prohibiting commission members from seeking elective office in the city of San Diego don’t extend to seeking other local offices, such as county supervisor or the state Legislature.
In September, the council is scheduled to consider amending a rule that prohibits anyone who ran for office against a current member of the council from being appointed to the commission. The rule also applies to people who worked on the campaigns of candidates who ran against current council members.
Councilman David Alvarez recommended that rule be softened to barring such people for five years after they ran for office against a current incumbent.
The goal is widening the pool of highly qualified candidates. The rule is in place to avoid conflicts of interest for commissioners, or the appearance of a potential conflict of interest.
Barret Tetlow, Councilman Scott Sherman’s chief of staff, said it’s possible the recommendation presented to the council in September will be for some other time limit than five years, explaining that a rationale for a specific number of years must be explored.
Tetlow said other major cities in California, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, don’t require members of their ethics commissions to abide by such waiting periods.
The changes, which were spearheaded by Sherman and Alvarez, are in response to a County Grand Jury report that recommended changes to the commission’s membership and other policies.
August 1, 2017
The San Diego Union Tribune
By David Garrick

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