Thursday, September 9, 2010 – 8:00 a.m.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos has started a new offensive in the county.

Take power from the board of supervisors.

Chatter started Wednesday night over the re-emergence of Ramos’ “white paper” manifesto. A document presumably penned by Ramos consultant David Ellis of Orange County and used in Ramos reelection campaign earlier this year.

The verbage appeared on the District Attorney’s offical county website without any fanfare. It’s unknown whether or not there was any attempt to garner local press coverage. Ramos is always looking for an issue to grandstand on. But with reelection in hand who needs it.

It’s no surprise for someone like Ramos, who has his own problems to deal with, to propose ethical rules for others that he himself couldn’t abide by.

Here’s the wording:

8/27/2010 District Attorney Reform Proposals
For nearly seven years the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, through its Public Integrity Unit, has been a constant observer of city, county, school and district governmental operations through the review, evaluation and investigation of over 500 complaints. For the last three years, the Unit has conducted an intense investigation of the functioning of the San Bernardino County government. That experience has resulted in the several observations and recommendations for reform. San Bernardino County government is woefully imbalanced. The Board members have become “Super” Supervisors who exercise both broad executive powers, in addition to their critical legislative role. Both directly, and through their staffs, the Board regularly directs County employees to perform, or not perform, certain tasks and functions; to avoid or target enforcement efforts; and to hire, fire or promote certain staff. Additionally, they often intervene in personnel and other critical Human Resource functions. County employees feel they have no choice but to comply with Board direction, even when they strongly disagree. The County Administrative Officer (CAO) is the chief executive for the County’s 19,000 employees. However, until the current CAO’s contract, the CAO could be dismissed at any time for any reason by any three members of the Board. Accordingly, there was always powerful pressure to set aside the public interest when that direction displeased a majority of the Board. The CAO had only as much authority as the Board was willing to allow. The American system of checks and balances between co-equal branches of government is non-existent in San Bernardino County. The opportunities for residential and commercial development are huge in our vast County. To have influence over the County’s most powerful government officials could be a great advantage. That advantage is easily obtained in a County where there are no campaign contribution limits. The combination of an imbalance of power and unlimited money in County politics is an easy formula for government corruption. Prosecution can interrupt, but can never bring an end to corruption under such a system. County reform recommendations: • Non-Intervention Provisions: The adoption of non-intervention provisions that would prohibit a member of the Board of Supervisors from instructing or interfering with County employees in the performance of their duties or from interfering in litigation. (San Diego, Los Angeles and Monterey Counties all have such provisions.) • An Independent CAO: The contractual provisions for the current CAO requiring a 4/5’s vote for removal for specific reasons should be made into law. Further, a CAO could have a four-year term during which they could not be removed except as above. Every four years the Board could re-appoint or select another executive leader. This would help to re-establish the co-equal authority of the executive branch of County government. (Sacramento County has some of these provisions.) • No-Gift Policy: In a County tainted by corruption, there is every reason to adopt a countywide no-gift policy, such as one in effect in Orange County. Campaign Finance reform recommendations: • Campaign Contribution Limits: San Bernardino County needs a thorough review of its campaign finance laws. The County should adopt campaign contribution limits, such as are in effect in Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Cruz, Contra Costa, San Mateo, San Diego and San Francisco counties. This County should never have another election where many thousands of dollars in contributions come from any one source. • Instant Reporting of Campaign Contributions: Transparency should not only occur at specified times but should be a daily commodity. The County should adopt provisions that require the instant reporting of contributions over a specified level. All elected County officials and candidates for county office should be required to have official websites where such information must be immediately posted. • Regulation of PACs: Provisions should be adopted that will prevent the abuse of Political Action Committees (PACs). PAC officers and directors should be clearly specified; no expenditure of a PAC should occur without a meeting and vote of their directors; minutes of every such meeting should be kept, noting all present; no PAC should be permitted to contribute to another PAC; and PACs should be completely transparent with instant online reporting of contributions made and received. Implementation: Over 100 jurisdictions in California have laws stricter than those in the Political Reform Act (Government Code Section 81000, et seq). The Act specifically allows for Cities and Counties to have their own, more stringent, provisions. San Bernardino County should no longer be the exception with regard to fundamental campaign reform. Coupled with the additional government recommendations noted above, I believe that such a program of reform could substantially improve and promote a fair, and effective County Government focused on service to our citizens. These are all concepts that should be thoroughly discussed. I invite public input. If there is support for these provisions, I would look forward to working with the public to explore the most effective and timely way to implement them. Michael A. Ramos San Bernardino County District Attorney

The paragraph-like pronouncement comes across more like a rant than anything else. No one has been able to figure out what has Ramos agitated.

The current speculation is Ramos is preparing another deflection maneuver to counter expected bad press on himself. However, Ramos usually employs charges and arrests in such circumstances.

The second line of thinking is Ramos is trying to convince federal investigators that he shouldn’t be under scrutiny.

It’ll be interesting to see how county supervisors receive this new attack from the DA.

Maybe they should propose an anti-fraternization code for elected officials as a county charter amendment to counter Ramos.

We can see those ballot arguments already. Now that would be interesting.

At least county supervisors have the power to place the measure on the ballot.