Eureka City Council’s recent move to change its code of ethics, following criticism for not signing or adhering to it, is an ironic turn of events. The council’s failure to uphold its own ethical standards has raised questions about its commitment to transparency and accountability. By revising the code, the council may be attempting to rectify its past mistakes and demonstrate a renewed dedication to ethical conduct. However, the council must also take steps to ensure that the new code is effectively implemented and enforced, and that all members are held accountable for their actions. Ultimately, the council’s actions will determine whether this move is a genuine effort to improve or merely a superficial attempt to save face.
The Lost Coast Populist team sent an email to the City of Eureka with some questions about the city’s decision to change its ethics policy, specifically the fact that the move comes after council members were called out for ethical violations and for not signing the existing ethics guidelines. This raises other important questions about the city’s commitment to upholding ethical standards and the timing of the policy change.
City Manager Miles Slattery responded as follows:
Thank you for reaching out. Below are the responses to your questions:
Who decided to stop abiding by the current Code of Ethics Resolution No. 2017-25 passed in 2017 by the City Council?
As it states in the Agenda Summary, a Councilmember who voted against the code due to concerns; refused to sign the code. The then Mayor, rescinded his signature on the code in 2018 as he also had concerns with the document and his first amendment rights.
Who currently at the City made the ‘recommendation to rescind’ the current Code of Ethics and be replaced by this proposed ‘Ethics Handbook?’
This was staff’s recommendation (City Manager, City Attorney & City Clerk) due to the first amendment concerns and conflict with the City’s Charter. The 2017 document which was adopted by a Resolution cannot supersede the Charter. The Charter is explicit on the Mayor’s powers within government and can only be changed by a vote of the people.
Will the City allow for a review and dialogue by Citizens and business owners of the current Code of Ethics to determine whether or not a new ‘Ethics Handbook’ is needed?
The Public comment period will allow for public input during the discussion of the Council Handbook.
What in current Code of Ethics threatens ‘Freedom of Speech’ as they have said?
The 2017 code prohibits the Council or Board members to use their titles in supporting other political candidates.
Will the citizens and business owners get to have input and dialogue around the new proposed Ethics Handbook?
Public comment will allow for public input during the discussion of the Council Handbook.
There seems to be a lack of enforcement or consequences to violations in the newly proposed Ethics Handbook…who will have sanctioning authority if violations occur?
The Charter of the City of Eureka is the official enforcement mechanism to censure any elected official. The 2017 Code did not circumvent the Charter which can only be changed by the voters of Eureka. The FPPC regulates and enforces conflict of interest codes and AB 1234 Ethics.
The proposed Ethics Handbook fails to include the word ‘transparency,’ or discuss what the expectations for Councilmembers to remain ethically accountable…why?
The handbook is a testament to transparency describing in detail laws and regulations that govern the Council. This public document ensures transparency and accountability.
Can and will the City be open to creating an Ethics Committee made up of regular citizens to enforce guidelines and make recommendations on this newly proposed Handbook or the current existing Code of Ethics?
This would need to be requested and enacted by Council.
Considering all the apparent Conflicts of interest and ethics violations by sitting Councilmembers G. Mario Fernandez, Kati Moulten, and Leslie Castellano….will they be expected to recuse themselves on this vote to replace the current Code of Ethics with this proposed Ethics Handbook?
The premise of this question is speculative. There is no expectation Councilmembers Fernandez, Moulton and Castellano need to recuse themselves from voting on this item.
Miles Slattery (He/Him)
City Manager, City Administration
(707) 441-4184 (Office) |
(707) 599-2053 (Cell)
City Hall, 531 K Street, Eureka CA 95501
<email@example.com>; Kim Bergel <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Kati Moulton <email@example.com>; Leslie Castellano <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Scott Bauer <email@example.com>; G. Mario Fernandez <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Renee Contreras-DeLoach <email@example.com>”
Subject: CHANGE IN ETHICS GUIDELINES
I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude to City Manager Miles Slatterly for the prompt and articulate response he provided to this email. Unlike a previous communication I had with Mayor Kim Bergel, Mr. Slatterly answered my questions in complete sentences, spending the time to craft unique responses to each given question.
This level of professionalism and attention to detail is greatly appreciated, the lack of it in the previously mentioned email speaks volumes about the quality of leadership we have in this community. Thank you, Mr. Slatterly, for Meeting me with a professional Response Despite our differing opinions on what was and wasn’t ethical conduct as mentioned in the last question.
Here is the City Agenda for the next council meeting which includes the recommendation to ‘rescind’ the Code of Ethics resolution passed in 2017 (which they’ve refused to follow) and replace it with a Handbook.
This proposed Ethics handbook
This is a BIG move that the City is trying to sneak by and we need transparency here. There is absolutely no reason (other than to cover their previous actions/conflicts) than to propose a new Ethics Handbook when we already have a code existing.
One thing this brings into focus Is the City Council – Manager form of government, bringing legitimate questions about how balanced this power structure is. This fact might also give cause to re-evaluate whether or not the City Manager’s job should be an elected position? We witnessed some of the power this position holds when Miles single handedly ended the cities covid vaccine mandate at the beginning of this year.
Advocates for electing the city manager argue that a democratically elected official would be more directly accountable to the residents and could better represent their interests. By giving the community the power to vote for their city manager, it ensures that the position is not subject to favoritism, nepotism, or backroom deals that could occur during the appointment process. An elected city manager could also bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the table, as they would need to campaign and engage with the public during their election process.
On the other hand, opponents of electing the city manager caution against potential issues that may arise. They argue that electing a city manager could introduce political considerations into a role that requires expertise and nonpartisan decision-making. Furthermore, elected officials might be more focused on short-term political gains rather than long-term strategic planning, which could hinder the efficient functioning of the city government. Additionally, an elected city manager could face challenges in dealing with a potentially divided city council, leading to gridlock and hindered progress.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to elect or appoint a city manager depends on the specific needs and dynamics of each municipality. Striking the right balance between democratic representation and effective governance is crucial. Careful consideration, public input, and a thorough analysis of the pros and cons of each approach are necessary to ensure that the city manager position aligns with the best interests of the community and contributes to the overall well-being and development of the city.