Editorials

Sacramento City Council ethics reform is a must

Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren was replaced as leader of the council’s ethics reform effort after news of a sexual harassment claim against him. Warren has denied his former aide’s allegations.
Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren was replaced as leader of the council’s ethics reform effort after news of a sexual harassment claim against him. Warren has denied his former aide’s allegations. jvillegas@sacbee.com

As Sacramento’s elected officials hem and haw, a local watchdog group has set the bar on transparency and ethics reform.

After holding public forums with the League of Women Voters, Eye on Sacramento is calling for four major changes at City Hall:

▪ An open government ordinance that guarantees and increases public access and accountability. It includes keeping all city emails for at least 10 years, requiring ad hoc City Council committees to meet in public and adding an independent city auditor, not one appointed by the council.

▪ A city ethics code, including strict rules on nepotism, conflicts of interest and sexual harassment, plus a cap on donations made to charities at the behest of elected officials. That would hamstring Mayor Kevin Johnson, who has persuaded donors to contribute huge sums to charities of his choice.

▪ An independent ethics commission, likely appointed by retired judges, to enforce the code and state ethics laws. It would have the power to subpoena records, compel witnesses to testify under oath and to fine and censure officials, or even seek to kick them out of office.

▪ An independent redistricting commission to draw City Council districts. There should be no doubt this is needed for the 2020 Census after the fiasco after the 2010 count. The council appointed a citizens committee, but ignored its maps and approved its own.

These are reasonable ideas deserving of serious consideration by a City Council committee, which was appointed by the mayor and is supposed to issue its report later this month.

We don’t know exactly what the council panel has in mind because it has been meeting in private – which is amazingly hypocritical.

The mayor’s spokesman assures us the council’s recommendations will reflect all citizens’ values, not just those of a special interest group. Eye on Sacramento’s proposals should not be dismissed lightly.

If the council does not approve reforms, Eye on Sacramento is prepared to go to the ballot in 2016. It would be far better if council members and the group’s leaders can agree on a plan. Whether in office or outside City Hall, everyone should want a more open and ethical government.

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