Commentary: Extend transparency ordinance beyond association negotiations

On Aug. 21 the Costa Mesa City Council's gang of four voted to include openness in their dealings with the various employee associations with whom they deal.

This ordinance included a requirement to hire a professional negotiator for the city to make sure that someone who may benefit from the negotiated outcome is not negotiating for the city.

This is something that should have been done a while ago, and it shows common sense in developing various offers and final determinations for negotiations with employee associations.

The ordinance also included a section that requires the council members to publicly disclose any contacts with employee association members about the agreement prior to any vote on that agreement. This is exactly what was requested by a number of residents and Councilwoman Wendy Leece months ago, except for one difference.

The ordinance requested by Leece and members of the public required that council members disclose communications with all participants in all issues on which the council votes and does not limit that disclosure to only communications between council and employee associations.

Suppose a developer wants to privatize one of our parks and has numerous conversations with a council member about the project. Should a council member be required to disclose that communication prior to a vote? Or, suppose the city wants to buy new office furniture, and the value of the furniture falls under the bid required exemption value so as to allow a no-bid contract?

Should a council member be required to publicly disclose communications with a vendor involved in that contract before voting on approving the no-bid contract, especially if that specific vendor is going to be the awardee of the contract?

And, finally, suppose the council votes to change the zoning in an area so as to allow high-density projects to be built where the existing zoning has only allowed low-density projects. A developer then proposes a project that requires additional variances and allowances other than what would normally be allowed in that new zone, and a council vote to allow such variances was required.

Should a council member be required to publicly disclose communications with that developer, before a vote on allowing those variances?

I, for one, think that any communications between a council member and any party to an issue to which the council is going to vote should be publicly disclosed prior to the vote.

The question you have to ask yourselves is: Why would the current council majority see the value of requiring disclosure of the communication in only one area (employee association contract negotiations) but not want to include the exact same requirements on other issues on which the council is going to vote?

How is there any ethical difference between a vote on an employee association contract and any other issue that requires a council vote?

JAY HUMPHREY is a former Costa Mesa city councilman.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World