Friday, January 13, 2012

An Interesting Way to Run the People's Business

The mayor and his administration and the Charter Revision Commission have been busy proposing sweeping changes to various policies and ordinances of the city. Numerous important proposed changes are before the Public Services Committee regarding the ethics ordinances in City Ordinance Chapter 12 1/2, city council organization and procedures in City Ordinance Chapter 2, fraud policies coming out of the Audit Committee, recodification of ordinances, etc.

There is a another ordinance revision up for consideration at the City Council meeting on Monday, January 17th. The first reading pertains to revisions of Chapter 14 relating to campaign finance for municipal elections. This ordinance amendment was first on the January 9th Public Services Committee agenda. Interim City Clerk Roust stated some of the pieces of this ordinance were just given to the committee at this meeting (relating to the proposed ethics and fraud ordinance and policy) so the councilors on this committee never had to chance to review those fraud/ethics provisions added to this new ordinance revision in advance.

Roust stated that these changes would hit during an election cycle "which is a bit troubling" but went on to talk about the rush to get this on the Council Agenda the following week as a walk in. When concern was expressed by Councilors Anderson and Brown regarding the rush to pass, City Attorney Pfeifle informed them the current ordinances were unconstitutional due to a recent Supreme Court Decision. The concerns folded like a house of cards.

Why would you bring sweeping changing to campaign finance laws months before a city election? From what I am told, the last time changes were made to the campaign finance ordinances, it took the Public Services Committee months to review the changes and to hear public input. Those changes were considered six months or more before any election took place. Interim City Clerk Roust said unfortunately its the 1st time she has been able to look at it. City Attorney Pfeifle said the committee needed to take advantage of Roust's extensive expertise in election matters at the county while they can.

The campaign financing ordinance amendments will have 2nd reading on February 6th and after publication and 20 days will become effective on March 1st. However, candidates can begin to take out petitions for the city council race beginning January 27th. The deadline to submit those petitions is February 24th.

Councilor Brown is term limited, but Councilors Anderson, Karsky and Jamison will probably be running for a seat in the April election. They will be now asked to vote on sweeping changes to the campaign finance ordinance when they will actually be part of the petition process. When asked if it was conflict of interest, City Attorney Pfeifle said no.  Does that really pass the smell test?  The City Attorney may not have a problem with it but from a perception standard, it should certainly raise eyebrows.

I guess all one has to do is throw out the scare of unconstitutionality to get something on the city council agenda that has had no public input in committee and has had no real study by the Public Services Committee.

It is an interesting way to run the people's business.


  1. This looks like a "stacked deck" in favor of the Mayor's and Pfeifle's wishes. All the voters need do is vote "no" to this ramrod proposal.

  2. Headline:City Council to consider last minute changes to election rules – the very rules that apply to incumbents seeking reelection
    How will the “regular Joe’s” respond? Ya can’t find anyone more common than South and his life long buddy Dakota. They just left Pauline’s Prattle Pub – here’s their take
    Dakota:Morning–you been watching reality TV again?
    South:Hey ‘sup’ is a happening word, ya know, we’re just old. I gave up reality TV, watchin’ web stream these days, city council meetings. They’re better than the Orange Housewives of Atlanta. – got everything you looking for – mystery (not one knows what the heck is going on), intrigue, and humor (the great pontificator – wish there were two of him). Chuckle
    Dakota: Ok, back on topic, ‘Sup’s not a word, but I’m glad you are following politics in the best little city in the heartland, those elected officials could be reality TV.
    South: Did ya know they had a Public Services Committee? It just approved some campaign finance ordinance revisions.They want ya to thinks its bout makin’ changes to update the ordinance from the U.S. Supreme’s decision but there’s more.
    Dakota: Hmmm, wait a doggone minute - isn’t there an election for half of the council members startin’ about now?
    South: Say, you’re on the ball today, which means yer buyin. The election is close, but we’re not spose to worry; the City Attorney (CA) told the council it’s not a conflict of interest to change the law right before they run for re-election. He’s got their backs.
    Dakota: Don’t pass the smell test, but I spose if the ordinance changes apply equally to all the candidates – it’d be ok.”
    South: Now that you mention it, there is a section that is different for the city’s elected officials than for the poor slobs who run against them. It’s bout investigations for campaign contributions.
    Dakota: What?
    South:Yeah, the CA will only investigate campaign finance improprieties for non-elected officials. The ethics board will investigate the elected officials.
    Dakota: Good grief, your saying there’s different rules for the mayor and council than those who are running against them!?!? How’s that fair?
    South: What’s fair got to do with it?
    Dakota: The ethics board’s never found a city official in violation of the ethics ordinances except the time they made up a violation to stick it to Council Member Staggers. It gets worse; to get that done they broke the Open Meetings laws, proved by the Open Meetings Commission. As it turned-out Council Member Staggers was acting ethically, the board of ethics was not.
    South: Nice.
    Dakota: The Ethics Board doesn’t have expertise in campaign finance violations and will be less empowered to act than they are now. But don’t fret CA will most likely have their backs too.
    South: Well, their fast-tracking this, it will be walked-in to a council meeting soon and adopted as law.
    Dakota: Walked-in?
    South: Yeah, it means that the public won’t have time to read it prior to first reading unless they watched the committee. The item will be added to their agenda AFTER the meeting starts. I’m telling ya that CA is a smooth operator for the mayor.
    Dakota: …and the council.You’d think the ethics board would think this unethical.But then their advisor is the CA. It’s a pretty tight circle of power.
    South: Yeah, His Supre-me-ness isn’t all that supreme as it turns out.
    Dakota: Again, not a word. The CA?
    South: Nope, but the CA is subordinate to His Supremeness.
    Dakota: Apparently when the mayor talks about ‘good things to come,’ he means good for himself.
    South: So will all code violation for elected officials be reviewed by the ethics board?
    Dakota: Funny! I get ticketed for not mowing my lawn. Can I avoid the fine by requesting to go to the ethics board rather than the CA? Is the violation confidential as an elected official of the city? This IS better than reality TV and it’s free.
    South: That’s what’s suuuup….
    Dakota: Not a word….Gotta go
    South: Next week, my friend.