By: O.C. Supervisor Todd Spitzer
On Tuesday, voters approved the creation of the Orange County Campaign Finance and Ethics Commission in a landslide of 69.9%-30.1%. This historic vote creates California’s first County Ethics Commission (all other ethics commissions are at the city-level).
“This effort has taken years of work by a wide group of people,” Supervisor Todd Spitzer said. “I thank the people of Orange County for overwhelmingly deciding to implement this critical reform.”
The Orange Campaign Finance and Ethics Commission will oversee:
- Orange County Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance
- Orange County Gift Ban
- Orange County Lobbyist Regulations
The Executive Director will investigate complaints about violations of any of those ordinances, and if necessary, bring accusations to an administrative hearing under a hearing officer. The accused may appeal hearing officer decisions to the five-member Commission.
“For the first time, people who are trying to do the right thing will finally be able to turn to an authoritative source for advice,” Spitzer continued. “Before the approval of Measure A, those seeking advice had to turn to their own attorneys or their employer’s attorneys.”
People seeking to understand and comply with the ordinances under the Commission’s jurisdiction will now be able to obtain training and both informal and formal advice from the Commission. Any person who follows the advice in good faith will be able to use that advice as an absolute defense in any Commission proceeding.
“Now, the work begins of setting up the commission,” Spitzer added. “It is critical that we select effective Commissioners and a strong Executive Director.”
The Board of Supervisors will appoint the five commissioners and the Executive Director of the Commission.
Shirley Grindle, author of the Orange County Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance, has pushed for an Ethics Commission for years with former OC Common Cause Chairman Bill Mitchell, Chapman University Law Professor Mario Mainero, and Chapman University Political Science Professor Fred Smoller.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer has fought for an Ethics Commission since taking office in 2013. Spitzer and Supervisor Shawn Nelson were the Board of Supervisors ad hoc committee on ethics reform that authored Measure E, the voter-approved 2014 predecessor of 2016’s Measure A. Nelson’s negotiations were critical in bringing Measure A to the ballot.
In an effort to advance government reform, Supervisor Andrew Do helped shape key provisions to strengthen the effectiveness of the Ethics Commission. Supervisor Lisa Bartlett provided critical support at a crucial time in order to bring the necessary momentum to move the measure forward.