Council OKs strict donation guidelines

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Pasadena Star-News (California)

PASADENA, CA — The City Council on Monday unanimously approved revised guidelines to the city’s Taxpayer Protection Act, which works to bar political kickbacks by having rules for candidate donations.

The act, once known as Measure B, was approved by voters in 2001 by a 60 percent margin. In November, voters accepted a revised version of the measure, which city officials said would further clarify and strengthen the law.

The more recent amendments were minor but important enough to raise a red flag for Carmen Balber, consumer advocate for the Santa Monica- based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

Balber, whose organization helped the city create the original act, said both she and Pasadena resident John Van de Kamp, a former California attorney general who led the city-appointed Task Force for Good Government that created the revised measure, found out the day of the council’s Feb. 5 meeting that amendments were being proposed and on the agenda for that evening.

After city officials heard about this from Balber, the council requested that the city attorney’s office, which created the resolution for the amendments, consult with Van de Kamp and Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies who served as the consultant to the task force, before going forward with the resolution.

In an e-mail, Balber wrote that she was concerned because “the city attorney’s new guidelines would exclude ‘certain city entrepreneurial activities’ — meaning leases and licensing agreements — from the \.”

“The \ cannot enact guidelines to rewrite this part of a voter-approved initiative,” she wrote. “They don’t have the authority to exempt city lease agreements from the law.”

After receiving input from Van de Kamp and Stern, the portion of the guidelines to which Balber was referring were revised to note that public benefit excludes “transactions in which the city has set a standard fee for use of city facilities (e.g. renting out or licensing the use of convention center space).”

At Monday night’s council meeting, Michele Beal Bagneris, Pasadena city attorney, noted that Balber concurred with most of the changes in the amended language after Bagneris’ meeting with Van de Kamp and Stern.

“Again, this is a guideline — it is not set in stone,” Bagneris said Monday. “We can continue to make changes.”

In addition, Balber said she believed the city should be focusing on getting the act’s disclosure forms online, a matter which was also addressed at Monday’s meeting.

Bagneris said the city staff suggested a July 1 target date for that to happen, and the council agreed.
Contact the author at: [email protected] or (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4496.

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