City Council Passes New Protocols

City leaders approve new governing rules by 4-1 vote.

Written by VINCENT WEI / Published September 23, 2011

The City Council on Tuesday approved new protocols governing the behavior of city officials. The vote was 4-1, with Mayor Fernando Vizcarra casting the dissenting vote.

An amended version of the rules was revealed during the November 16, 2010 city council meeting.

The final draft loosened the restriction placed on city officials that prohibited city council members from meeting with project applicants once paperwork had been filed. In addition, it strengthened a provision barring city council members from voting if they receive $101 campaign contribution from any contractor, vendor, and developer.

The changes came after Councilman Vincent Yu expressed disapproval with the revised draft in September.

“I’m happy with what’s been proposed,” he said during the city council meeting.

In September, Yu sought to weaken the rule prohibiting city officials from meeting with project applicants, while strengthening the rule related to campaign contributions.

The last time the City Council considered the protocols, the rules stated that council members would be prohibited from voting on items if they received a contribution of $250 or more within 24 months. According to the new draft, the threshold was lowered, while council members would be barred for 48 months, or the full council term, if they received a contribution of $101 or more.

Vizcarra, who opposed the revised restriction on campaign contributions, disagreed with Yu’s view.

“It takes money to run a campaign,” he said. “It’s not an ongoing process. It happens every four years. $250 is nothing.”

In response, City Attorney Eric Vail said, “I think that’s a fair point. Local campaign finances have escalated over the past 10 years.”

Vail stated that when the ad hoc committee began drafting the governing rules, a figure of $1000 was used to determine when a council member could not vote on an item. That figure was eventually reduced to $250 and again to $101.

“Nothing that we put in the protocols is written in stone,” the city attorney said. “You are free to add, to amend.”

The new protocols will apply to the City Council, as well as city commissioners. The new rules come as City Hall attempts to regain the confidence of the community in light of negative publicity over the Piazza scandal.

The standards cover the following topics: openness, fairness of process, ethical decision-making, efficiency and accountability, and enforcement.

An ad hoc committee composed of Councilman Carl Blum, Mayor Pro Tempore Tom Chavez, and City Attorney Eric Vail drafted the protocols.

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