The Fine Line Between Public And Private
In small town politics it is not unexpected that elected officials would have personal relationships with those petitioning them for approval on various issues. This by itself is no reason to believe special consideration is granted nor a prearranged position is made in decision making. A problem could exist, however, when the totality of the relationship and interaction between a petitioner and an elected official is not known to the public. On at least one occasion a well publicized personal communication email document surfaced (The infamous Madrid PFLAG Email to Patty) that to many suggested an elected official in this city had offered the power of an office to limit discussion of an issue to suit a particular outcome and embarrass a political rival.
In 2006, as part of ethics training, La Mesa city officials were provided the November 20, 2006 City of La Mesa "Ethics in Public Service" publication by the law firm of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore. I believe that included the current group of elected city officials. In part it stated:
"...court-made doctrine provides that a public officer is impliedly bound to exercise his or her powers with disinterested skill, zeal, and diligence and primarily for the benefit of the public. A personal interest, whether financial or non-financial, that interferes with an officials ability to act in such a manner could potentially violate the doctrine." (page 13, Section 3, paragraph 1)
"There is a strong interest in the law to prohibit even the appearance of impropriety. This common law doctrine extends to non-economic conflicts, which means that a conflict (or mere appearance of one) that is not related to a financial interest may still be prohibited even though no money was at stake." (page 13, Section 3, paragraph 2)(Underline added)
"Under the common law, a conflict of interest may arise even in the absence of a financial interest. However, there must be a personal advantage or disadvantage at stake for the council member." (page 14, 3rd paragraph in review of a case study)
In referring to the development of public policy and decision making the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis stated, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” meaning broad public knowledge of all the doings of government officials is the best way to insure ethical behavior.
As we start a new year and as a protection for the public I challenge each elected official to agree to be forthright and open in disclosing all past and present relationships, official and private communications including those of council or advise, campaign contributions of any amount in money or equivalent in time or other value, professional or personal business dealings (even as a customer), personal friendships and any other connection(s) that could pose an ethical or moral violation, or might give even the appearance of such, with respect to anyone appearing before the city council where public policy, law, or resources are involved."
Surly an ethical and moral person cannot object?
La Mesa CA