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Panel exempts city officials from conflict rules on appointments

March 15, 2012 |  4:18 pm

With dozens of city council members in Orange County accused of conflict-of-interest violations, the state’s ethics watchdog panel Thursday changed the rules to allow local elected officials to vote on appointing themselves to paid boards.

In approving an exemption for such appointments on a 3-2 vote, the state Fair Political Practices Commission agreed to instead require that information on the paid boards, including the amount of income, be posted on the Internet.

"We believe we are getting a lot more disclosure from this," said John Wallace, the panel’s acting executive director.

In opposing the exemption, Commissioner Elizabeth Garrett said it is "disturbing" that elected officials would be allowed to vote on their own paid appointments, and Commissioner Ronald D. Rotunda said it is "mind-boggling" that city officials were arguing that there is no conflict of interest.

"The conflict is they appointed themselves to get some extra income," said Rotunda, a Chapman University law professor. The city officials are taking advantage of their elected position for profit, he added: "You are in a position to appoint yourself. To me that just seems wrong."

The issue arose after 40 city council members in Orange County received warning letters from FPPC Enforcement Chief Gary Winuk telling them they had violated the conflict rules by voting with their city councils on their own appointments to boards paying them more than $250 a year.

A petition to change that state regulation was submitted by a group of cities involved, including Anaheim, Dana Point, Irvine, La Palma, Newport Beach, San Clemente and Yorba Linda.

Attorneys for the cities denied that there was a conflict, arguing the city council members were simply getting additional government pay for representing their city.

RELATED:

O.C. officials who received warning letters listed

City council appointments to paid boards challenged

40 officials in Orange County get conflict-of-interest warnings

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

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