Created: 01/14/2011 04:10:59 PM PST

By Sandra Emerson
Staff Writer

UPLAND – The City Council Advisory Committee has received a to-do list from council members.

The advisory committee, which consists of five residents, will review campaign contribution limits as well as an ethics code for city officials.

Councilmen Ray Musser and Ken Willis recommended the committee look into implementing campaign contribution limitations during city elections.

Musser said he spent $80,000 when he ran for mayor in 2008, but Mayor John “JP” Pomierski surpassed that total.

“There’s got to be a better way, because the big developer spent $50,000 in donations to the mayor, and, in addition to that, through (political action committees) spent another $33,000 plus just from one donor,” Musser said. “That’s about $85,000 just from one donor. Not everybody in Upland has $85,000 to win an election.”

Pomierski has received more than $100,000 in contributions from the Colonies Partners LP since 2001. Colonies Partners developed the Colonies Crossroads shopping center in northeast Upland. Disputes over a water basin project on the development property led to a controversial $102 million lawsuit settlement between Colonies Partners and San Bernardino County.

The committee will meet Feb. 2 to consider and make some recommendations. They will continue to meet on the the first Wednesday of every month.

Committee members were appointed by council members.

Committee member Tom Mitchell, who was Musser’s former campaign manager, said he would like the committee to review ordinances in surrounding cities, such as Claremont, where council candidates are limited to $250 in donations a year from one person.

“Until we actually get together and see what the director of the city wants from us, I’m always a believer in brainstorming,” Mitchell said. “I think the collective group will come up with the best ideas, not just one individual.”

Pomierski said he would vote to approve contribution limits, should the committee come up with that plan, but said his election outcomes would still be the same. The mayor has raised more than half a million dollars in campaign contributions in the last 10 years.

“If one friend gives me $1,000 that means they’re going to have four friends give me $250. It’s all going to work out the same,” he said. “The other thing is, I said this before, if people like what you’re doing, they’re going to donate to you if they like your leadership quality and the performance.”

The discussion of campaign contributions “all boils down to sour grapes,” Pomierski said.

Musser has called for contribution limits for years, but, until recently, has had no support from other council members.

However, Willis partnered with Musser in recommending the committee to the council at this past Monday’s council meeting.

“I know it’s controversial,” Willis said. “I’ve already had a few people tell me they don’t think it was a good idea, but I think that we need to try, and Ray and I have had conversations about this and I’ve listened to his concerns and I have some concerns of my own.”

Willis said he does not want to see major contributions from medical marijuana cooperatives. G3 Holistics in Upland mailed campaign fliers opposing the three councilmen running for re-election in the Nov. 2 election.

The co-op is appealing a court decision to close their shop, after city officials filed for an injunction. The city’s zoning code prohibits cooperatives from operating.

Councilman Gino L. Filippi said that when the committee considers good public ethics, they should consider that the law is only the minimum standard.

“It’s the floor, not the ceiling,” Filippi said. “City councils can decide to hold themselves to a higher standard of conduct than is set forth in the Political Reform Act or the Brown Act.”

Filippi is using county Supervisor Neil Derry’s proposal of the Sunshine Ordinance as well as a code under development in the city of Riverside as examples for the committee to review.

The ordinance requires the preservation of audio and video recordings of all Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission meetings as well as more accessibility to public records online.

The Riverside City Council revised its ethics code to allow someone to file a complaint about a city official online. The council will then decide to censure an elected official or remove an appointed official.

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