Council rejects campaign donation restriction, repeals sex offender law

In an effort to make the Huntington Beach City Council more transparent, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Shaw suggested to his colleagues that they adopt the same campaign contribution practices that the city's Planning Commission abides by.

The proposal failed on a 3-3 vote Monday. Councilman Joe Carchio was absent because of illness.

The proposed ordinance would have made all Huntington Beach elected officials subject to California Code Section 84308. The code prohibits certain public officials — like planning commissioners and board members — from receiving contributions greater than $250 from groups that have a financial interest in projects that are pending before the city. It also prohibits the groups from making such contributions during the same three-month time frame, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Elected officials, like City Council members, are exempt from the code.

Shaw and Councilwomen Jill Hardy and Connie Boardman said the proposed ordinance would have made the paper trail of contributions easier for the public to follow.

"I see no reason that our planning commissioners should be held to a higher standard than council members," Boardman said. "Many end up running for council and have to comply with the $250 limit. I think it's a good thing to separate campaign donations from a project, and I don't think developers or applicants should be contributing to council campaigns close to an election."

Councilmen Dave Sullivan and Jim Katapodis argued that $250 isn't enough to sway a council member's vote on an issue.

"I really don't think there's anybody up on this dais that could be bought for $250, and if they are, shame on them," Sullivan said.

"Any time someone gives me a donation, I always tell them, 'Hey, don't think I'm going to vote for whatever it is that you want, because I'm going to do whatever I want' and I've been doing that," Katapodis said.


City repeals prohibition of sex offenders from city parks

Also Monday, council members voted 6 to 0 to repeal a city ordinance that prohibits convicted sex offenders from entering city parks after the law was upheld as unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court in April.

The city adopted the ordinance in November 2011 following the lead of Orange County, which in April of that year adopted what was considered the toughest sex offender law in California. It required registered offenders to seek written permission from the county sheriff if they wanted to visit a county park or beach.

"The damage these predators do, we know about it all the time," said Sullivan, who voted for repeal under protest. "Young people's lives are ruined forever because of an incident like that, and if anybody's missing that point, then they're not paying attention."

But the city's ordinance got tangled up in the courts following the conviction of registered sex offender Hugo Godinez, who was arrested in May 2011 for violating the county law in Fountain Valley. He appealed and in 2012 sued Huntington Beach, among other parties, challenging the legality of such ordinances.

Godinez's conviction was overturned by the Orange County Superior Court in December 2012, prompting various cities to start the process of revoking their ordinances.

The case was then brought before the 4th District Court of appeal, which ruled in January that the county's regulations conflicted with state laws and was unconstitutional. That ruling was upheld in April by the California Supreme Court.

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