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Holman cleared by FPPC after 'conflict of interest' claim
Original post made
on Aug 25, 2014
Councilwoman Karen Holman did not violate state law when she urged city staff to explore rezoning sites on Arastradero Road without first disclosing her financial relationship with the owner of one of the sites, the Fair Political Practices Commission has concluded in a response to an anonymous complaint.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Monday, August 25, 2014, 9:47 AM
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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 26, 2014 at 11:16 am
I am having problems with some of assumptions of the local media reporting, and the comments of some posters. Perhaps some one can help me out with the points with which I am having problems?
While the FPPC does accept "anonymous" complaints over the telephone, none of the local media reports indicates that this was a "phone tip". Moreover, it's my understanding that the FPPC does not make the existence of these complaints known, such as posting them on its web-site.
A. Sworn Complaint
The law provides that if you suspect a violation of the Act you may file a sworn complaint with the FPPC (Gov. Code Sec. 83115).
The Act and FPPC Regulations provide that a sworn complaint filed with the FPPC entitles the complainant to certain rights and processes, described below. A sworn complaint must comply with certain requirements. Using the complaint form and providing as detailed information as possible will assist the FPPC in processing your complaint. At a minimum, you must do all of the following:
1. Submit your complaint in writing.
2. Sign the complaint under penalty of perjury.
3. Identify the person(s) who allegedly violated the Act and list the specific provisions the person(s) violated.
4. Describe with particularity the facts constituting the alleged violation and provide any evidence to support the complaint.
5. Include names and addresses of witnesses, if known.
The FPPC may only act on complaints alleging violations within its jurisdiction. In order for us to process your complaint, all of the pertinent information the form asks of the complainant must appear on the form, not as an attachment. The complaint must state a specific violation of the act including the date on which it occurred, and must also state how you have personal knowledge of the violation. It may be helpful to contact our Enforcement Division prior to filing a complaint to determine whether the activity presents an issue on which the FPPC has jurisdiction to act. For immediate assistance from the Enforcement Division,
C. Anonymous Complaints: Toll Free "tip line" 800-561-1861 If you do not want your name disclosed in connection with your complaint under any circumstances, you may call 800-561-1861 on Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to Noon and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and make the complaint anonymously. Commission staff will evaluate your claims and has the authority to pursue a complaint on its own initiative.
If the complaint were submitted via a signed formit's my belief that the FPPC would not release that information, meaning that FPPC complaints are generally "anonymous" in all cases. If the submitter wants to tell the mediathat's their prerogative. But it would seem an unwise thing to do if one is not certain about the points of law in question, and is seeking the FPPC's help to sort out the perceived problem.
So, early on, only the complaint submitter, the FPPC, and the person who is the object of the complaint know about the complaint. Sohow did the media find out about the complaint?
The link in the article points to a lot of background for the FPPC, but the actual complaint form is not present. This is important, since the submitter would need to clearly specify the problem he/she thinks the covered public official has with the law. I also don't believe that the FPPC would provide the complaint, or any background material upon requestbut I could be wrong on that point. Sohow did the media become aware of the complaint, and how did they get the background material? If the media knows who the complainant iswhy shouldn't they be expected to reveal their source, as so many people are claiming the submitter should do?
Complexity of CA Ethics Laws
From researching this area for a bit, I have come to the conclusion that the Ethics Code is incredibly complex, and that very few people in California understand it. Point of exampleboth Council Member Klein and Scharff have been quoted as telling Holman that she had a "conflict of interest". Neither has been asked to explain themselves in detail, but at the momentit would appear that both were wrong in their assessment of Holman's situation. Of course, Holman had improperly filed her Form 700 last year, so perhaps these two gentlemen did not have the correct financial information with which to make their assessments.
What's a little disturbing is that when two, top-of-the-line lawyers, both on the City Councilmake a claim that another City Council Member has a conflict of interestand neither does anything about it, such as file an FPPC complaint immediately. We all are left to wonder who/when such a complaint should be filed? Certainly these big-time lawyers are in a better position to craft a meanngful complaint than the rest of us ordinary people.
We are also left with the silence of the other Council members. Did they understand what Klien/Scharff were saying? If so, why would they sit on the sidelines and say nothing?
Many people have posted that sentiments along the following lines"if it looks wrong, then it is wrong" (or words to that effect). Unfortunately, this is not the case where breach of ethical conduct is concerned (in the realm of State government). There are tests which can be applied that provide one the information to believe that a violation of ethics has occurred. nfortunately, wading through this topic is about as much fun as walking in a swamp with snow shoes on, so few actually acquire the knowledge as to what these tests are, and how to apply them.
Determination of "No Finding" vs "Exoneration"
When the FPPC decides to not pursue a complaint beyond its initial review, this would seem to me to be a determination of "no findings". The FPPC had decided (via is internal processes) to not investigate the complaint. This determination does not "exonerate" anyone. It simply states that in the FPPC's opinion, that there is not enough information supplied in the complaint to proceed. If the FPPC had proceeded, and exhaustively investigated the complaintthen it's findings would be different, but it's unlikely that any public agency would ever claim that it's investigation actually "exonerated" any person subject to its scrutiny. Declining to investigate a complaint also does not prove that any charges/allegations were false.
Moreover, this refusal to proceed does not preclude another complaint be submitted in the future, should additional information become available.
I hope that people will spend some time trying to review the California Ethics Code. It's not much fun, but it is the law that we have to deal with.
If anyone can help me better understand some of these issues, I would be appreciative.
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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2014 at 8:30 pm
Mark Weiss is a registered user.
For the record, I met Karen Holman while campaigning for the 2009 City Council seats. She was a planning commissioner at the time, while I was a Gunn graduate (where I was an honor student, in student government, in theatre, a varsity athlete and league champion and two-time Editor in Chief of the newspaper), dating an arts commissioner (still am), running my two small businesses and trying to follow the suggestions of people like Sid Espinosa and Peter Drekmeier who advocated "civic engagement". I got 800 votes, but learned a lot, and started to develop a thick skin and an appetite to learn more about self-governance and Democracy in these trying times. Karen was an exemplary ally, in that she took the time to get to know some of the fellow candidates (compared to Larry Klein, who gives me, constantly a cold shoulder, for instance -- by the way, Nancy Shepherd also developed a rapport with me, although I at times have disagreed with some of her actions).
For five years, as I continue to track policy, and as of fall, 2010 write about it on Plastic Alto, my blog, Karen Holman has kept a line of communication open to me.
So as I have campaigned for Council (after getting nearly 6,000 votes in 2012, all without spending a dime, in a time when seated candidates spent on average $20, 000) these last 30 days, I thought about the incumbents, especially in the wake of the Grand Jury report of June 16, 2014 and the referendum of 2013. I have seriously thought about voting for 0 incumbents (and therefore myself and four other challengers) or voting back in all 3 (because in certain ways Greg Scharff and I are experiencing a type of glasnost, although I disagreed with a lot of his actions and tactics in the ensuing years).
So, despite it's awkwardness, I announced I am voting for Karen, after I vote for myself -- in my imaginary-rank-choice ballot. She is one of my five choices, with the other three remain to be seen. There are 60 more days in the campaign.
There is no one on Council or Commissions that I would refuse to work shoulder-to-shoulder with, for the good of the community. I give them hell on my blog, here sometimes and at times it gets dicey in person -- for instance when Vino Locale sat Terry and I at a captains table with Pat and Sally Burt and two other couples, on St. Patricks day, a few days after Pat and I went at it after he objected to my giving him the business online or on my blog -- and ironically, or fittingly, I was questioning his tone and believability over....27 UNIVERSITY. But I still hit up Pat from time to time, for instance, I saw him at the Mads Tolling show at Mitchell Park and asked him about 456 Uni. Also, people point out that as I lobby for A NEW PARK AT VENTURA, ON FRY'S PROPERTY, 15 ACRES, Pat is given credit for bringing Heritage Park to fruition, so he may come on board as my ally.
Politics makes strange bedfellows.
I recommend attending some of the campaign events and not relying on the internet.
So, yeah, this is me. (You can check that my cross-referencing my blog; I tend to back up my posts there).
Thank you Karen for your years of service, good luck, but yeah, watch your step, sister!
That's for the person who objects to my use of the term "man-up". It's from the Broadway show by the founders of South Park.
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