Vote on City Protocols Tabled as Disagreements Emerge over Edits

Mayor postpones a vote to allow for more time for discussion.

Written by RAYMOND TRAN / Published August 12, 2011  

A vote on a draft of protocols governing city officials was postponed Tuesday, as disagreements emerged over two items.

The two areas of disagreement center on a rule that prohibits city council members from meeting with project applicants once they have filed paperwork, as well as rule that prevents city council members from voting on items related to campaign donors who give $250 or more within a 12-month period.

Both points were raised by Councilman Vincent Yu during the city council meeting on September 21, 2010.

Yu wanted the rule that prohibits city council members from meeting applicants scrapped. He also wanted to strike a clause that allows city council members to vote on items, even if they receive a contribution of $250 or more, if 12 months have passed.

Councilwoman Cynthia Sternquist defended the rule prohibiting a sitting council member from meeting with a project applicant once paperwork has been filed.

“I think it gives more transparency and I don’t like any, even the perception, that something might not be proper,” she said.

Yu disagreed, “I don’t see meeting with anybody would be improper.”

The councilman said that a lot of issues the current City Council resolved were due in part to listening to citizens who spoke to them.

To provide support for the clause, Councilman Carl Blum, a member of the ad hoc committee that drafted the protocols, stated the rule would be “raising the bar.”

“This is not raising the bar,” Yu responded. “This is interfering with how we do [city] business.”

According to City Attorney Eric Vail, there is no law that prohibits city council members or planning commissioners from meeting with project applicants once they file paperwork.

“The purpose of this rule is to simply avoid the appearance of impropriety,” Mayor Pro Tempore Tom Chavez said. “I don’t think any of us should put ourselves in a position where people could wonder why this councilman is meeting with this applicant, especially if we’re going to be called upon to make decisions on the project in the future.”

The rule is “an overreaction to the problems we had before,” Yu said.

Referencing the Piazza scandal, Councilman Yu stated that striking the 12-month clause, essentially permanently prohibiting council members from voting on items if they receive $250 or more from a donor, was a better alternative.

In addition, Yu wanted to lower the amount from $250 to $100.

Mayor Fernando Vizcarra, as well as Councilmembers Blum and Chavez, disagreed.

A final vote on the protocols may be held in a special meeting, the City Council decided. The meeting may be held as soon as October.

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