10:00 PM PST on Tuesday, December 7, 2010

By ALICIA ROBINSON
The Press-Enterprise

Riverside Councilman Steve Adams’ actions at a neighborhood group meeting didn’t violate the city’s charter or ethics code, a panel of elected officials decided at a City Hall hearing Tuesday.

The ethics complaint filed by the La Sierra/Arlanza Neighborhood Alliance alleged Adams improperly had City Manager Brad Hudson cancel a staff presentation at the group’s Sept. 2 meeting.

Adams did not attend the hearing.

The panel was made up of the mayor and three council members. Some community members have questioned whether it was a conflict of interest to have council members hearing complaints about each other.

This is likely the last ethics complaint to be heard by such a panel. The council in January will take a final vote on new procedures that include a panel of residents.

According to the alliance’s complaint, Adams came to the group’s meeting with the city attorney, but after he was told he couldn’t speak until the end, two staff members who were scheduled to talk about road construction early in the meeting left.

“(Adams) tried to hijack our meeting and intimidate our leaders, and when he could not,” he punished them by calling Hudson to have him cancel the presentation, alliance chairman Scott Andrews said at the hearing.

Andrews said Adams violated the spirit if not the letter of the ethics code. The city charter says council members are not to interfere in personnel matters or give staff orders. The ethics code says council members should follow the charter, and should make fair, unbiased decisions.

Officials have said Adams came to the meeting to address the group because of concerns about its activities.

Hudson said afterward that he heard of at least two complaints from people who felt the alliance collected money from them “under false pretenses” and used it for political purposes. Hudson declined to give further details.

The complaints were referred to Riverside police, who found no wrongdoing, Hudson said.

Adams has described the ethics charge as political, noting that Taffi Brandriff, one of the alliance’s leaders, is the wife of John Brandriff, who is running against him for his Ward 7 seat in 2011.

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