Wednesday, August 25, 2010

REPLY HAZY, TRY AGAIN

REPLY HAZY, TRY AGAIN: We haven’t heard much about our crony-addled, bored of ethics, Board of Ethics (BOE) since local newspaper reporter Mike Levine left for a real job in journalism.

Levine’s coverage during the infamous “20.02(D)” debacle (see right rail for our three-part report) would have been nothing extraordinary in the rest of country but around here- especially lately- merely attending meetings and reporting accurately IS extraordinary by any measure.

Nowadays if it weren’t for a few dedicated “nitpicking” community watchdogs that darkest of black holes for ethical violations might go it’s merry ethically-challenged way.

Some might think that the BOE’s inability to read and apply simple ethics laws could indicate a distinct lack of literacy. For those Pollyannas, well, we have a few select scenic lookouts for sale.

The reality is that after Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s unceremonious dumping of BOE member (and current county council candidate) Rolf Bieber it became quite obvious that if you’re going to wear the king’s uniform you’d better carry the king’s sword.

So when members of the planning department decided it was okay for them to seek outside employment preparing permit applications for their fellow department employees’ to approve, instead of trying to stop the plainly unethical practice that the law forbids, Planning Director Ian Costa knew he could turn to the BOE for a some kind of tortured process whereby his underlings could continue their corrupt practices.

Horace Stoessel has been doing the job the local newspaper abandoned after Levine’s departure and today, without further comment, we present his latest report.

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YOUR GOVERNMENT AT WORK

I have attended meetings of the Board of Ethics for the better part of three years. I offer these comments for the information of those interested in a matter currently before the Board.

In May Planning Director Ian Costa requested an advisory opinion from the Board of Ethics regarding the outside employment of four departmental employees engaged variously in drafting, site inspection, architectural drawings, design and consultation.

Since then, in an end run around the Charter requirement that a request for advisory opinion must be answered within 30 days, the request has been withdrawn twice by mutual agreement between the Board and the Department, in each case to be resubmitted at a later date. The main reason given for the five-months-and-counting process was to allow Director Costa a chance to consult the County Attorney ’s office.

So far the County Attorney ’s office has participated in the Board’s process as follows:

In May Deputy County Attorney Mona Clark, who is regularly assigned to the Board, advised the Board that County Code Section 3-1.7(d) expresses an absolute prohibition against the activities referenced in the request for advisory opinion and told the Board that aside from enforcing the section its only option is to ask the Council to change the language of 3-1.7. The Board took no action based on her advice, arranging instead with Director Costa to withdraw the request and resubmit it later.

In July Attorney Clark volunteered to provide the Board with a (written) opinion if the Board requested it. The Board did not request it.

In August Director Costa’s request reappeared on the agenda, leading some of us in the public to believe that the way was clear for the Board to act on the request. However, County Attorney Al Castillo appeared long enough to tell the Board that Attorney Clark was in court and to apologize for his being unprepared to address the agenda item.

In July Board member Paul Weil had moved that the Board request the County Attorney to provide the Board with the same information provided to Mr. Costa. The motion was seconded by Warren Perry and unanimously adopted. That request also went unanswered in August.

In August it was agreed that Mr. Costa would resubmit the department’s request at the September 17 meeting.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Thanks Andy, that's a great backhanded compliment you gave me. Ha!