Chula Vista's board of ethics to get independent counsel

Chula Vista changed in a significant way November 6--not at the ballot box but at the city council meeting. The council voted 3-2 on language that implements Proposition C, an ordinance approved by voters last June.

Proposition C limits the term and salary of the city attorney and provides for an Office of Legislative Counsel, an independent attorney to advise during potential conflict of interest issues.

Council member Rudy Ramirez sat on the subcommittee that developed the ordinance language. He argued that after Proposition Q in 2008, which gave the city an elected attorney, some allocation of power shifted to the city attorney's office. In the wake of Proposition C, Ramirez believes allocation of authority shifted back to the council "where it belongs."

Ramirez stated, "We [the council] can't go behind closed doors to make our decisions. We will debate in public where the voters can evaluate the decisions we make."

The new ordinance language also establishesd the legislative counsel as a "permanent advisor to the Board of Ethics." In the past, the city attorney advised the board.

City attorney Glen Googins and mayor Cheryl Cox countered that the board of ethics, not the city council, should choose their own attorney.

Resident and long-time civic activist, Peter Watry, told the council during public comment that "In the 30 years of the board's existence, nobody has ever been convicted of unethical behavior. This is a farce."

Watry pointed to a recent board of ethic's meeting in which he alleged that a council member accepted campaign contributions in order to vote in a change in the general plan. Watry said the board never even discussed whether or not the action was ethical, rather the city attorney simply advised them legally why they should not consider the case.

Now that the board of ethics has a council-appointed attorney, Watry says he is going to file the complaint again.


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