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“I would hesitate to call it an ‘ethics cheat sheet,’” said Mayor Helene Schneider (flanked by Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss) in response to a colleague’s suggestion to compress the new 27-page ethics guidelines.

Paul Wellman

“I would hesitate to call it an ‘ethics cheat sheet,’” said Mayor Helene Schneider (flanked by Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss) in response to a colleague’s suggestion to compress the new 27-page ethics guidelines.


Conflicted Interests

Council Agrees More Ethics Training Needed


Thursday, February 14, 2013
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Responding to recent instances in which members of Santa Barbara’s design review boards recused themselves when they should have voted — and others in which they voted when they should have stepped down — the Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to augment the conflict-of-interest training required for members of City Hall’s many advisory boards and commissions.

The new guidelines make it explicit that the personal political beliefs of the commission members have no standing when they render judgments about the architectural merits of proposed developments. Last summer, five members of the Architectural Board of Review (ABR) recused themselves from voting on minor plan modifications sought by fast food emporium Chick-fil-A, three for political reasons. The company’s chief executive had made headlines with flamboyantly outspoken remarks hostile to gay rights and gay marriage. In addition, the company donated millions to organizations opposed to gay rights.

Some members of the ABR withheld their vote, explaining they could not render an impartial judgment given the company’s political agenda. A majority of the council repudiated the mass recusal, arguing such considerations were extraneous to their city functions. Two councilmembers — Frank Hotchkiss and Randy Rowse — suggested the offending commissioners be terminated. Given how difficult it is to find qualified volunteers to fill City Hall’s 36 boards and commissions, the punitive approach got no traction. Instead, city officials drafted clearer guidelines calling for increased ethics training.

While Chick-fil-A was clearly “the electroshock incident” — in the words of Councilmember Bendy White — it’s hardly the only ethical concern. Last year, the Fair Political Practices Commission fined ABR member and architect Clay Aurell $3,500 for lobbying city staff on behalf of a client then appearing before the ABR with a controversial remodel. Aurell resigned, but not before Councilmember Dale Francisco called him out during a council meeting.

Far trickier for members of design review boards is what they can — and cannot — say or do on behalf of clients with projects before their boards. Under state law, they must recuse themselves from any deliberations and allow other members of their firms to make their clients’ case. The only exception allowed is for architects and other professionals with solo practices. In such cases, these sole practitioners are allowed only to present information about their projects, but not to advocate.

The bright line between “presenting” and “advocating,” however, is so dim as to be all but invisible. For example, the chair of the Historic Landmarks Commission, Phil Suding, quietly stepped down from his position at a meeting there weeks ago so he could testify on behalf of his client, the developer of the La Entrada hotel development proposed for lower State Street. A member of the public who showed up to testify against changes proposed for La Entrada — Jim Westby — expressed concern about the dual role Suding was playing. “From a public perspective, that just doesn’t look good,” Westby complained. But like 36 other members of city design-review commissions, Suding is a sole practitioner. Without them, City Hall’s intricate maze of volunteer-dependent boards and commissions would collapse.

In deference to the smell test, city administrators will now require a public acknowledgment to take place when members, like Suding, change hats during such proceedings. Under the new rules, the chair of the commission will be required to read a seven-paragraph statement, citing chapter and verse from state law, detailing the limited circumstances under which commissioners are allowed to play such dual roles.

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

What a bunch of morons. They intend to augment the conflict of interest training? How about each member gets a two page handout of rules and regulations for the Board, with mandatory testing on the content, and if they fail we presume they are too stupid to know you cannot refuse to hear the Chik-fil-A case because their owner expresses his 1st Amendment rights or that you cannot lobby for your own client in front of the Board.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
February 14, 2013 at 5:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How 'bout if you recuse yourself because you're afraid your politics will warp your judgement we consider that an immediate resignation..

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
February 14, 2013 at 4:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Is it true that Murillo was demonstrating against Chick Fil A at the opening? Sounds like someone else who needs ethics training.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
February 14, 2013 at 9:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It was at City hall and at least Cathy Murillo has an opinion she is not too chicken to state in public. Unlike Carol Ruiz.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 14, 2013 at 9:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Is Ms. Ruiz so disconnected from the community that she has no clue as to how divisive her silence is?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 14, 2013 at 9:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Politicians are expected to take an opinion on public issues, business people aren't.

Botany (anonymous profile)
February 14, 2013 at 10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I wonder what Council Person Dale Francisco thinks of all this.. as a Prop. 8 supporter himself he has been uncharacteristically silent.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 14, 2013 at 10:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@JohnLocke: "Is it true that Murillo was demonstrating against Chick Fil A at the opening? Sounds like someone else who needs ethics training..."

Someone *else* does need ethics training. Murillo did nothing by protesting that business.

@botany: "Politicians are expected to take an opinion on public issues, business people aren't."

When business people make their unpopular political beliefs part of their business, then they get to reap what they sow.

EatTheRich (anonymous profile)
February 15, 2013 at 5:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

But then so do politicians. If Murillo were demonstrating in favor of ChickFilA, just imagine the local outrage. But since she's demonstrating against, then it must be OK. I'd prefer she sit down and shut up. I don't think it proper for elected officials to participate in public protests. It's my opinion and I'm entitled to it.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
February 15, 2013 at 10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@JohnLocke: "If Murillo were demonstrating in favor of ChickFilA, just imagine the local outrage. "

Certainly, because she'd be in opposition to Santa Barbara's overwhelming support of gay marriage.

@JohnLocke: "I'd prefer she sit down and shut up. I don't think it proper for elected officials to participate in public protests."

If you don't like it, vote her out. Otherwise, keep your 'big government' out of my free speech.

EatTheRich (anonymous profile)
February 15, 2013 at 4:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

How is it improper for political leaders to take part in political protests? Getting enough sleep my friend JL?

At least Murillo has the courage of her convictions, unlike the very silent Carol Ruiz.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 15, 2013 at 5:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Darn, I forgot that Carol Ruiz was running for city council.

Botany (anonymous profile)
February 15, 2013 at 6:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Murillo can protest all she want against Chick-Fil-A because she has that right as a private citizen, and as such, she should face no penalites per her job. Conversely, she--nor anyone else on the board--should be denying Chick-Fil-A their right to open a business based on how the proprieters spend their money.

As for gay marriage, the government has no place in deciding who gets to marry and who doesn't. Get the government out of the bedroom and we'll have a lot less conflicts. Since many gays want to get married because as married couples, they will have the same benfits as hetero couples, I also think that any group of people should be able to get together for group benefits whether they are married or not group or two-person benifits rates should apply.

Clearly, if Hugh Hefner or Rod Stewart can keep getting married to women who are about 100 years younger then them, how can the moralists deny the gays whilst thinking it's ok that these guys keep starting over and creating new families?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 15, 2013 at 6:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Can I marry my dog?

Can I have 17 wives and 4 husbands?

Botany (anonymous profile)
February 15, 2013 at 6:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

" It's my opinion and I'm entitled to it."
-- JohnLocke

You certainly are. It's an idiotic opinion but don't let that hold you back.

SezMe (anonymous profile)
February 15, 2013 at 7:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Botany, you want us to take you seriously don't you?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 15, 2013 at 8:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)


"Can I marry my dog?

Can I have 17 wives and 4 husbands?"

Botany (anonymous profile)
February 15, 2013 at 6:52 p.m.

Whatever floats your boat.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 16, 2013 at 3:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What Botany and his dog doo in the privacy of their domicile is none of our business...
Seriously, Ruiz is not a public person and has no responsibility to respond to this garbage unless she feels it is good for business; we shall see if she made a smart choice.
Murillo has every right to publicly protest; albeit I too find it sleazy when officials do this. And yes my umbrage has been equally dispersed to conservative types that grandstand.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
February 16, 2013 at 8:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, you're right, much as I dislike the idea of elected officials, or appointed ones for that matter, participating in public protest, they do in fact have the right to do so as private citizens. Of course, there will always be those who take Murillo's participation as the view of the City, the Council, whatever.

You know, SezMe, some of us are trying to make these interactions rather more about debate and less about name-calling and insult-flinging. Why not join us?

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
February 16, 2013 at 9:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

In the corporate world, ethics and diversity training are taken seriously. Training and tests (which must be passed to retain employment) are conducted annually.

At one company, we even had a class called "What do white men over 40 think?".

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
February 16, 2013 at 11:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Heck, in the corporate world violations of ethics can (not always, unfortunately) be punished by termination of employment. Ever heard of that in government? Even censure is almost unheard of.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
February 16, 2013 at 6:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I worked in corporate of an international fast food corp. Despite heavy criticism in the 80s of policies and the like similar to CFA's; since then the company became quite progressive, not just with domestic partner benefits for all gender combos but a variety of issues- a complete turn around; and has done better than ever.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 16, 2013 at 6:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Great, isn't it!

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
February 17, 2013 at 9:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Marriage Equality under the law should be or really is in some States limited only to the same human species and only to one other individual at a time, regardless of gender.

Marriage to dogs or multiple humans is for another debate, so good luck with that whilst not deliberately melding such deliberate nonsensical distractions with an actual discussion on civil rights, including Marriage Equality.

For the rest of us jonesing for chicken in uptown, we choose Chicken Ranch.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
February 19, 2013 at 12:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

JohnLocke: Bill Clinton comes to mind.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
February 19, 2013 at 1:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Commentators here are entitled to have an opinion about social issues, and they choose to emphasize that part of the discussion.
However, the point of the article is that the BAR and the ABR have no right to address such issues in their official capacity. In fact, most of what they do is unethical to the extent that dictating architecture beyond the concise limits of the zoning laws oppresses the rights of the property owners to make their own lifestyle choices and modes of self expression. The BAR and the ABR are inherently unethical.
Beyond the issue of social engineering, there is also the conflict of interest that the BAR and ABR members have in making business for architects. Also there's the issue of qualifications, as many members are not licensed architects but landscape and interior designers who are also there to drum up business.
The solution to the problem is simply to shut the whole charade down. We have zoning laws for a reason.

native2sb (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 4:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

native2sb, in your detailed and thoughtful comment you forgot who was at the root of the debacle: City Atty Steve Wiley who counselled all city people in a lengthy presentation to abstain if there's any hint of conflict.
Why let him off the hook? because he's perceived as Conservative or Liberal?
In addition your ire should be directed at Rowse and Hotchkiss who falsely drummed up a controversy by implying due process had been denied when they knew damn well it hadn't as CFA had already been approved and the ABR in this case was ceremonial.
If anybody should be terminated it should be Wiley, Rowse and Hotchkiss. Especially Rowse who is the King of Conflict of Interest if you go by your own rubric.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 4:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

yeah, vote them ALL out.
Starting with congress.

native2sb (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 6:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I wonder if we can lobby Congress to resign.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 6:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We can start with the Senate.

Botany (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 9:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nah the House of Reps is way more venal and rich with bribery opportunities.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 9:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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