I am voting no on Newport city charter Measure EE because the change to Section 608 — dealing with Illegal contracts and financial interests has, in my opinion, weakened the prior rules, and also still permits elected council members to improperly affect city decisions (be it a permit issuance, city fee reduction or avoidance, or grant of a required city entitlement) in which they have a financial interest.
It is not enough that a council member not vote on any matter in which they have a financial interest. Based on my experience as a council member, it should also be required in our charter that any elected council member with a direct of indirect personal financial interest also not discuss that matter with any other city council member (who may well in the end be voting on the matter and who may be inclined to do a fellow council member a favor), any city staff member (since staff gives strong weight when dealing with City Council members), and also with any city commission or committee Member (because the City Council appoints each of those members, and again because those commission and committee members give strong weight when dealing with the City Council).
It should be clear in our charter that once elected a City Council member has made a deliberate choice to forego advancing any personal financial interests because of their insider elected office position.
This tightening of the conflict rules for our elected officials should have been corrected in the proposed revised charter but was not. That the revised proposed charter text allows City Council members to have just this type of unfair advantage makes me vote no vote on Measure EE. Integrity of the political process must be stated clearly in our city's charter.
JOHN HEFFERNAN is the former mayor of Newport Beach.