Landmark Voter-Approved Initiatives Ban Public Officials From Taking Campaign Cash, Gifts or Jobs from City Contractors
Santa Monica – The nation’s toughest conflict of interest rules for city officials are in effect today after the California Supreme Court refused to reopen cases challenging two voter-approved ballot initiatives. Santa Monica and Pasadena spent four years and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting the political reform initiatives, which were placed on the ballot by the Oaks Project, the volunteer arm of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).
The initiatives target the corruptive influence of money in politics by barring public officials from accepting campaign contributions, gifts or a job from any entity they award a public benefit – such as a city contract, a lucrative franchise or the purchase of property.
"City politicians wasted years, and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, attempting to nullify initiatives the voters approved to keep public officials honest. Fortunately, the courts saw through their schemes and kept the toughest conflict of interest protections in the nation on the books. Pasadena and Santa Monica’s conflict of interest laws are now the model for statewide political reform," said Carmen Balber, a consumer advocate with FTCR. "City officials should now move immediately to implement the law."
Four-Year Battle By Politicians To Avoid Conflict Of Interest Rules
The Oaks Project’s conflict of interest initiative was placed on the November 2000 ballot in San Francisco and Santa Monica, and the March 2001 ballot in Pasadena and Claremont, through an all-volunteer effort that gathered nearly 70,000 signatures statewide. Elected officials hostile to the political reform measures attempted to overturn them with legal challenges.
In Santa Monica, the city attorney advised the city clerk that she should refuse to implement the initiative. When the city clerk acted as directed, the city claimed controversy and sued itself in a thinly-veiled attempt to invalidate the ballot measure. The trial court and the Court of Appeal agreed with the Oaks Project that there was no actual disagreement between the city of Santa Monica and the city clerk, and ruled that the city could not sue itself in order to get rid of a voter-approved initiative.
The city of Pasadena attempted to invalidate the law by refusing to report the election results to the Secretary of State. A Pasadena citizen and the Oaks Project were forced to bring suit to compel the city to put the election results, and the initiative, on the books. The city responded by suing the Oaks Project to try and overturn the initiative. The Court of Appeal ruled that Pasadena had violated the Oaks Project’s first amendment rights by suing to overturn the initiative, and a superior court judge’s ruling against the initiative should be thrown out.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to reconsider the Court of Appeal decisions ends four years of legal challenges against Prop LL in Santa Monica, and Measure B in Pasadena.