View Mobile Site
 

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos

 

Jonathan Kraut: We do have choices

Democratic Voices

Posted: March 1, 2010 11:10 p.m.
Updated: March 2, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

As long as we supply tax revenues, elect officials to manage funds and public contracts and allow imperfect humans to make decisions, we can anticipate that greed and personal gain will take advantage of our free society.

While we may be a nation of laws, we certainly are not a nation of justice. Judges sentence serial criminals in endless cycles of probation. The Bureau of Corrections, chartered to “correct,”  makes no attempt to remediate inmates. Politicians regulate their own conduct without independent oversight.

Rather than appoint an agency to provide unbiased monitoring, rarely will an elected body allow an untainted eye to ensure its conduct is ethical and free from undue influence.  

Days ago two former San Bernardino County officials were indicted for receiving $400,000 in bribes for pushing through a $102 million settlement with a developer.

Los Angeles City Council members have a discretionary slush fund in the millions that even the City Controller is barred from auditing.

The Santa Clarita City Council appoints and directs the City Attorney, who in turn watches over the council for misconduct.

Regarding a joint resolution by the local Democratic clubs, Councilman Frank Ferry at a Aug. 27, 2007 City Council meeting refused to consider implementing ethics oversight because he said the timing of the issue “was political.”

Then-councilman TimBen Boydston lost this battle for openness to the other council members who happily caved on the issue, glad to defer discussion to a later time. Of course, once political pressure was gone, no independent oversight was ever implemented.   

If for no other reason, I feel the incumbents up for election should give way to others who will serve our community with greater openness and accountability.   

Even while our current City Council denies the need for oversight, controversy about ethical council conduct continues to swirl. I thought prior to an election it pertinent to ask council candidates about purported misconduct.

I questioned Mayor Laurene Weste about issues including her possible conflict of interest with her participation regarding the planned Casden Properties development at 13th Street at Railroad Avenue, which affects her personal private property.

She was gracious enough to call me and respond. She stated there was no factual basis for these or other claims of misconduct and would not discuss the issues further. She said my questions were “politically motivated.”

Of course discussion of the ethics regarding an official running for re-election is political. The voters have a right to learn more of the character of those running. I was hoping for an apology or for clarification. Weste had the courage to call, but only to take the ethics topic off the table.

I contacted Ferry regarding several issues, including the state Fair Political Practices Commission’s determination that Ferry was guilty of violating state law regarding his illegal donation of $12,000 supporting the council campaign of Laurie Ender in 2006.

I was hoping Ferry would discuss this and other claims and debunk them, or accept responsibility as appropriate. No contact was made and we will have to wait and see if he comes clean on these and other issues.

Possible transgressions are not limited to sitting officials. I located criminal records on council candidate David Gauny.

Responding to “Did you plead no contest to a DUI?” Gauny replied: “Yes, I was about 22 years old, just discharged from the Navy.

It was a very embarrassing learning experience — a hard lesson that was thankfully learned without someone being hurt.”

When asked if he pleaded guilty to driving without a valid license Gauny responded: “I missed a court appearance for an illegal left-hand turn citation and was then cited for driving on a suspended a license before I corrected it. Another hard lesson but I’ve had a pristine driving record since.”  

No elected official of whom I am aware is of perfect character. But acknowledging one’s mistakes and becoming a more responsible as a result says a lot about one’s character. I have to admit Gauny’s willingness to accept responsibility was a refreshing surprise.  

Whether Gauny and I disagree politically is not the issue — I disagree ideologically with many, but I want to know a candidate’s character. I want to know if a person representing me is open to scrutiny and learns from his or her mistakes.

Harrison Katz, running at the age of 19, had predictably no record to defend — but he has been as forthcoming regarding his personal deficiencies — in this case a lack of political experience. Boydston has already proven his character as the lone voice on the City Council supporting an actual independent ethics review mechanism.

Given the choice between limited communication or complete openness, who would you prefer to represent you in your government?

We do have choices, after all.

Jonathan Kraut is a Fair Oaks Ranch resident and serves in the Democratic Party of the SCV, on the SCV Human Relations Forum and SCV Interfaith Council. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or other organizations. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays in The Signal and rotates among several SCV Democrats.

Comments

Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.

 
 

Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...