By: O.C. Supervisor Shawn Nelson
The Board of Supervisors received the Ethics Committee’s report, crafted after two months of study and comprised of a staff representative from each of the five supervisorial offices. In addition, the Board directed County Counsel to explore various components in establishing an ethics commission, including enforcement, subpoena power and what, if any, changes to the existing campaign finance ordinance would be required.
The ethics committee submitted seven recommendations to consider when crafting an ethics commission ordinance:
Recommendation 1: Proposed Ordinance should substantially increase ethics training and education for County officials and staff compliance training and education needs to be enhanced by the County.
Recommendation 2: Proposed Ordinance should substantially increase and improve campaign finance disclosure. There is a clear need for the County to more easily compile donations to verify compliance with TINCUP, the 1978 County campaign finance reform ordinance.
Recommendation 3: Proposed Ordinance must be flexible to accommodate TINCUP. If a commission were to be established, it is recommended that only the foundational provisions of an ethics committee be codified in the County Charter. There needs to be flexibility for modernizing amendments, which is only possible when the bulk of the law is established as an ordinance.
Recommendation 4: Proposed Ordinance should incorporate a safe harbor provision. with complicated laws that can be confusing, an advice provision with safe harbor is needed to assist the public to understand the law and provide guidance to those seeking to comply.
Recommendation 5: Proposed Ordinance should approach subpoena powers with caution and great care should be taken when considering subpoena power to a possible ethics commission.
Recommendation 6: Proposed Ordinance should follow already established best practices for appointments. The screening and appointment of members to an ethics commission by elected officials is the standard practice. The FEC, FPPC, the ethics commissions of the City of Los Angeles, City of San Diego, City of San Jose, the City and County of San Francisco, and the County of Kern all have members appointed by elected officials.
Recommendation 7: Proposed Ordinance should adopt confidentiality during the investigation stage prior to determination of guilt or innocence.
The full report is available here.