By Robert Hawkins
As we prepared for our October 17, 2012 forum at the Corona del Mar Residents Association, we noted that the Fall 2012 Newsletter contains several misunderstandings regarding Measure EE. These require correction.
Under the guise of efficiency, Measure EE seeks to change the relationship between City residents and voters, with City government–Staff and Council. The Newsletter incorrectly states:
“The spirit and scope of the original Charter, created in 1954, was preserved throughout the effort.”
Taken as a whole, Measure EE seeks to elevate the Council above the electorate and to insert staff above the electorate as well. This conflicts with the current Charter and the current City’s organizational chart. Under our charter, the power rests with the residents, with the voters. Through the Charter, the residents and voters delegate limited powers to City government including the City Council and staff.
One of the key efficiency provisions is the loosening of our current conflict of interest provisions: Sections 608 and 609. Section 608 entitled illegal contracts currently prohibits council members, or other officers of the City from having a financial interest “. . . either directly or indirectly in any contract, sale or transaction to which the City is a party.” Measure EE proposes to lessen this requirement by only prohibiting such contracts if “ . . . made by them in their official capacity.” So, it is fine to enter into a contract in which a Council member or staff person has a direct or indirect financial interest but such person cannot make the contract in their official capacity; that is, the Council member or staff must not participate in the decision. Although efficient, it provides little protection for our residents and voters from entry into contracts which will benefit a conflicted Council member or staff.
Likewise, Section 609 currently prohibits any Council member from “accept[ing] or retain[ing] any other elective office.” This ensures that Council members have only one loyalty: to the City and its residents. Measure EE’s proposed revision simply reverts to state law. Although this may be efficient for our Council members, it harms the public, since Council members who are seeking higher office would have divided loyalties. For instance, if a Council member ran for the Second Supervisorial District in Orange County, he or she may sacrifice Newport Beach for the benefit of other potential constituents who may live in Irvine. That is wrong. Since we enjoy the benefits of a good Charter, it is odd that the proponents want to turn us into a general law city.
Moreover, Measure EE changes and removes many of these limitations and restrictions for City government including staff and the Council. We will write about more of them in subsequent letters. Thanks for your attention and thanks for the invitation to the forum.
Robert C. Hawkins
No on Measure EE