Executive Director's Message
As this issue of The Public Trust was being finalized, departmental hearings on the FY08-09 budget before the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee were just beginning.
While the Ethics Commission will not be immune from cost-cutting measures to address the City’s budget deficit—estimated to exceed $400 million—we do recognize that responsible stewardship of the public’s resources means that each department, no matter its size, has a job to do.
Already in this fiscal year, for example, our staff resources have been reduced. During these difficult budget times, however, we are working hard to make sure that our severely limited resources effectively target our core mandates. As we work to mitigate the impact of further budget cuts on our staffing and operations, we will be sharply focusing our efforts on the fundamental Charter-mandated work that the voters established for the Ethics Commission. [MORE]
On the Fast Track:
As part of its voter-approved mandate, the City Ethics Commission regularly audits the political committees of City candidates. The City’s charter and administrative code determine which committees and candidates are subject to an audit.
2007 Audit Cycle Completed
In January 2008, the City Ethics Commission completed its Fast Track Audit (“FTA”) program in connection the 2007 regular and special elections. For that audit cycle, Commission auditors were required to audit 27 committees that together received $4.3 million in contributions and spent $4.5 million. Instituted during the 2005 audit cycle, the FTA program enables audits to be completed within 29 business days for Citywide committees, and 20 business days for City Council committees. [MORE]
Contribution Limits Reviewed
Following a thorough review of the City’s campaign contribution limits, the City Ethics Commission in March declined to recommend any increase in the amount City candidates may raise from contributors at this time. The Commission noted the fact that actual contributions in City elections continue to fall far below existing limits, and that increasing current limits may unfairly benefit incumbent officeholders. [MORE]
Recent Enforcement Actions
Between December 2007 and April 2008, the City Ethics Commission acted on 17 stipulated settlements that stemmed from prior City elections and resulted from the Commission’s mandate to audit City campaigns following each election cycle.
Nearly all the settlements involved contributors or candidate-controlled committees that made or received, or gave, campaign contributions in excess of allowable amounts.
Under the City Charter, candidates for Citywide office may receive up to $1,000 from a contributor in a primary or general election. City Council candidates may receive no more than $500 from any person in a single election. Other violations resolved through the settlements included: failure to keep proper campaign records, failure to provide a proper disclaimer, and a failure to provide public copies of campaign literature. [MORE]
Thinking About A New Job?
Questions You Need to Ask
Employees considering leaving City service need to be aware of ethics laws that could affect how they search for their new job, and, in some cases, that could restrict what they may or may not do in their new position.
These “revolving door” provisions are part of the City’s Governmental Ethics Ordinance, LAMC § 49.5.1 et seq. State law may also apply in certain situations. Together, these laws are intended to keep former public officials and employees from unwittingly – or intentionally – trading on their former positions to unfairly benefit or otherwise give an undue competitive edge to, a private entity.
At the same time, these laws reflect the legitimate interests of those who wish to have diverse experiences both in and out of government during their careers by applying only in very specific situations. [MORE]
Outside Employment: Five Quick TipsEven in the best of economic times, City employees can have numerous reasons for seeking outside employment. Some may be exploring a career change. Others, who have an entrepreneurial spirit, may be driven to open a business and be their own boss – at least part of the time. Still others may be working to achieve certain personal or family financial goals.
No matter the financial climate, and whatever the reason, City workers need to be aware of rules that govern their outside employment.
To help safeguard the public’s interests by promoting accountability and avoiding possible conflicts, the City’s ethics laws require outside employment to be approved in advance by the employee’s General Manager or appointing authority. In some cases involving outside employment with a “restricted source,” the Ethics Commission’s review and approval is also required. In other limited situations, outside employment may be denied if certain factors established in the law are present. [MORE]
Neighborhood Council Files
And Financial Disclosure
In January and February 2008, the Los Angeles City Council introduced two motions that would require the members of neighborhood council boards to file a public personal financial disclosure form if their councils choose to put an item before the City Council by creating Neighborhood Council Files, or NCFs.
For elected officials, and many appointed officials and employees, personal financial disclosures are made using a California Statement of Economic Interests, or Form 700. In March, the City Ethics Commission responded to requests from three City Councilmembers to review a possible Form 700 filing requirement for neighborhood council governing boards that create NCFs. [MORE]
Advice and EducationAs those involved in making City decisions continue to explore new and innovative ways to solve complex public policy problems -- particularly in a climate of increasing financial constraints -- equipping those individuals with tools and information to assure that City decision making is fair, transparent and accountable becomes increasingly important.
Closing the Information Gap
Easy access to clear and reliable information that supports this aim is more important than ever before. With a mandate to support and equip effective decision making and an informed citizenry, the Ethics Commission continues to be committed to providing helpful guidance and useful tools for City officials, employees, and those regulated by the City’s ethics, campaign finance, and lobbying laws to heighten their awareness and knowledge of those laws.
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Timely access to helpful information about City ethics laws is not only a click away, but also just a phone call away. Our Program Operations staff can provide you with informal advice and answers to many questions you may have. They can be reached at (213) 978-1960 and they’ll be happy to assist you.