Monday, October 20, 2008

Google Alerts to Contra Costa Times The to My Computer

The following article appeared on Page A3 of today's Daily Breeze but is also came to me via my Google Alerts for Ponte Vista that pointed me to the Contra Costa Times to find the article.

Never the less, here is the article:

Lomita to consider ethics rule
COUNCIL: Changes to the code of conduct would bar city officials from lobbying for clients.
By Nick Green, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 10/19/2008 10:16:07 PM PDT

You could call it the Mark Waronek rule.

Well, you could, but neither Lomita Mayor Margaret Estrada nor Councilman Ken Blackwood evoked the former mayor's name in backing a proposal on tonight's council agenda to tighten up the city's code of conduct.

The proposed change would ban "council, board and commission members from representing any client or interest as a consultant on matters that may come before or involve the city of Lomita."

That language could be added to the city's code of conduct or even inserted into an ordinance if a "stronger enforcement tool" is preferred.

"It's an excellent idea," Estrada said. "You should be on the City Council for one reason and one reason only, and that's to make the city a better city, not to benefit yourself and not to use your title - (if you're) a lobbyist or consultant - to get clients."

Estrada may not have mentioned Waronek, but it's clear that the proposed policy is aimed at the conduct of the lobbyist and consultant before he lost in the last council election.

Blackwood ran against and defeated Waronek in large measure because he was aghast at Waronek's ties to businesses with interests in or near Lomita that posed the potential for conflicts of interest, including the controversial Ponte Vista development in San Pedro.

Waronek stepped down from his role as a consultant to the massive Western Avenue housing project shortly before last fall's election, but voters apparently remained unconvinced of his motives.

"It's for the future, not the past," said Blackwood when asked who the proposal was targeting.

"It would seem inappropriate for someone to be sitting on the council and representing someone who might be before the council," he added. "That doesn't seem right."

Nevertheless, Blackwood conceded the proposal was the fulfillment of a campaign pledge he made to voters last year.

Unpretentious Lomita was taken aback by the slick brochures and high-powered political connections employed by Waronek.

Candidates in the two-square-mile city usually are more inclined to trek down every street rather than send out expensive campaign materials.

Waronek's campaign expenditures exceeded what his two rivals spent combined - yet he received 300 fewer votes than either of them.

The proposal would also prohibit officials from representing clients with business before the city for a year after that person had stepped down from his or her post.

That would bring the city into line with others such as Los Angeles, which has a similar policy, Blackwood said.

Torrance also recently enacted an ethics policy that includes similar language.

Blackwood indicated he was leaning toward an ordinance rather than just adding it to the City Council code of conduct, but wanted to hear the views of his fellow council members.

"The ordinance has a little more teeth to it," he said. "The ethics code hasn't any provisions for enforcement - it's self-enforcing."

Council members will discuss the proposal before indicating their preference to city staff, which will either write an ordinance or add language to the code of conduct.


What: The Lomita City Council tonight will discuss a proposal that prohibits elected officials and volunteer members of advisory boards from representing any client or interest as a consultant or lobbyist that may come before the municipality.

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Lomita City Hall, 24300 Narbonne Ave.


I am not convinced a new ordinance really needs to be written. If representatives police themselves and recuse themselves during discussions and voting on matters they have a larger interest in, then that might just do what is needed.

If the member was not willing to recuse themselves, then that does illustrate their lack of real interest in ethics in government.

We might get to see how ethical three members of the Harbor Area Planning Commission are if they truly believe they do not have a conflict of interest receiving comments as a Commission member and/or voting on matters related to Ponte Vista at San Pedro.

There will be more information about the members of the Harbor Area Planning Commission coming out soon and the information will be placed on this blog.

Here is an update to the story concerning Lomita.

Lomita tables talk on officials lobbying
From staff reports
Article Launched: 10/21/2008 10:43:12 PM PDT

The Lomita City Council tabled until Dec. 1 a discussion and possible action banning public officials from lobbying the city on behalf of clients.

The City Council was scheduled to propose an ordinance or changes to its code of conduct Monday, but postponed the issue when only four of its five council members were present at the meeting.

With the possibility looming of a deadlocked 2-2 vote, essentially killing the proposal, the council opted to delay the issue until the Dec. 1 council meeting.

The proposed ban on "council, board and commission members from representing any client or interest as a consultant on matters that may come before or involve the city of Lomita" was prompted by the activities of former Mayor Mark Waronek.

He served as a consultant to the company developing the proposed Ponte Vista housing project on Western Avenue in San Pedro before stepping down from the role last year, shortly before an unsuccessful re-election bid.

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