CITY ETHICS PANEL WANTS DISCLOSURE ON SECESSION BIDS.
The public has a right to know who's paying for efforts to split the city and who's bankrolling the opposition, the city Ethics Commission said Thursday as it urged financial disclosure requirements for Valley cityhood and similar campaigns.
In a letter issued Thursday, the Ethics Commission urged the Local Agency Formation Commission to adopt a lobbying disclosure rule similar to the one imposed by the city requiring lobbyists to reveal what they spend, what they're paid and who pays them.
Also, groups seeking to sway voters to favor or oppose cityhood drives should divulge their contributors, the commission stated in a draft ordinance amending city campaign disclosure rules.
``LAFCO, unlike every other city agency or body which individuals lobby, has no provision that would require individuals who lobby it to make disclosure,'' said Ethics Commission member Miriam Krinsky. ``It's a glitch that has occurred. We're asking LAFCO to plug the hole.''
Larry Calemine, executive director of LAFCO, said the agency abides by county and state rules on political disclosure, and he questioned whether additional rules are necessary.
``To have specific special legislation for the case of Valley VOTE, which is clearly operating under the existing state law, doesn't make any sense,'' Calemine said. ``If you're going to change the law, you change the state law, and not at the local level.''
Leaders of Valley Voters Organized Toward Empowerment, the group pushing for a study of Valley cityhood, have said they are not lobbying LAFCO, just participating in a study process.
``We were required to collect petitions to have a study and we did that,'' Jeff Brain, president of Valley VOTE, said recently. ``We are not lobbying LAFCO, we are an applicant.''
Some also have questioned how a city ordinance would apply to a county study before the issue is put on the ballot and people take sides.
Richard Close, chairman of Valley VOTE, said Thursday the group doesn't object to new rules as long as they don't exclusively target the organization.
``We have no objections to whatever disclosure requirements LAFCO or the city wants to impose, as long as they are imposed on all groups equally,'' Close said. ``The devil is in the details. If it's a full disclosure for all groups that lobby, no objections. If it's aimed at people who support the cityhood efforts, then it's discriminatory.''
The Ethics Commission also continued working on a draft of a city ordinance mandating disclosure of donations to city reorganization campaigns such as the Valley cityhood effort.
While state law requires that groups pushing ballot measures reveal their finances, it does not require such reporting from local reorganization campaigns, whose proposals do not go directly to the ballot and are subject to study by LAFCO beforehand.
Only after such a petition goes on the ballot do disclosure requirements kick in.
City officials, including Councilman Mike Feuer, have argued that the reporting requirements should take effect as soon as a signature-gathering drive begins.
``I think the public has a right to know the source of all money being spent to influence political decisions throughout the state,'' Feuer said.
The proposed city ordinance would require organizations supporting or opposing reorganization efforts to report any donations within 10 days after receiving contributions of $1,000 in a calendar year.
It's unclear whether the term ``reorganization'' would encompass all LAFCO actions, including annexations and other municipal changes, or only applies to cityhood efforts, said LeeAnn Pelham, deputy director of the Ethics Commission.
Those details will be explored in a revised version of the ordinance, Pelham said. The Ethics Commission expects to hold a public hearing on the ordinance during August.
Any new rules would not apply retroactively to Valley VOTE contributions, REthics Commission officials said.
``I think the commission's concern was that the public did not have full information about who was funding those efforts,'' Pelham said. ``It is an example of a very important governmental process for which the public has less information than it does for other types of situations that are very similar.
``This kind of ordinance is an attempt to ensure that under city law, that loophole doesn't exist for future similar efforts.''
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jul 9, 1999|
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