Ethics panel member sends letters to council members who have voted themselves onto local boards that pay stipends up to $5,000.

By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times
February 20, 2012

Reporting from Sacramento— Dozens of city officials throughout California have voted to appoint themselves to local boards that pay stipends of up to $5,000 annually, a practice state watchdogs say violates conflict-of-interest laws.

e mayors and council members involved argue that the amounts are so small, and the votes so routine, that they deserve an exemption from those laws. Most of the appointments are made to sanitation, fire and water boards by votes of city councils.

Also
6 lawmakers recuse themselves in Rep. Waters inquiry 6 lawmakers recuse themselves in Rep. Waters inquiry
California’s political watchdog panel eases its approach to ethics issues California’s political watchdog panel eases its approach to ethics issues
L.A. ethics panel may raise campaign contribution limits L.A. ethics panel may raise campaign contribution limits
Romney tax returns detail funds not identified in ethics forms Romney tax returns detail funds not identified in ethics forms
Newt Gingrich, in Sunday victory lap, dismisses ethics worries Newt Gingrich, in Sunday victory lap, dismisses ethics worries

Ads by Google

Santa Monica Seafood50% off at Santa Monica Seafood in Costa Mesa. Save Today. www.OCRegister.com/DealoftheDay

Fair Political Practices Commission staff member Gary S. Winuk, chief of enforcement, has concluded that the votes violate state political law. Rather than fine the council members, he issued letters to 40 of them in Orange County, telling them to stop. He agreed that the money at issue is not significant enough to warrant prosecution and penalties — at least not yet.

Taxpayer advocate Lew Uhler called the warning letters a “slap on the wrist” and is urging that the officials be fined. They should know better, he said.

“That’s a clear conflict of interest, where members are voting on something from which they will derive a personal benefit in compensation,” said Uhler, president of the California-based National Tax Limitation Committee.

The full Fair Political Practices Commission will take up the matter March 15. It was brought to the panel’s attention in a number of sworn complaints filed by Matthew Delaney, a Tustin painting contractor who noticed that city council members throughout Orange County were regularly helping to vote themselves onto paid boards.

To read entire story, click here.