Another Call for Transparency in Anaheim’s City Government

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Former Anaheim City Council candidate John Leos has pitched a City Hall accountability and transparency ordinance at nearly every council meeting – without any luck – since last October.

Leos was about to give up. Then Voice of OC revealed last week that former Mayor Curt Pringle’s lobbying firm has been working behind the scenes at City Hall and the Orange County Transportation Authority to benefit his clients. Leos said he was shocked after reading the two-part series.

“Just as the waters were starting to calm a bit, we hear again today about another issue,” Leos said during the public comments portion of last week’s council meeting. “The people in the city of Anaheim are starting to feel disenfranchised. We don’t want people to think that there is some sort of secret society in our city.”

Leos was referring to the “masters of the universe,” the description Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray used for a few men who attended a party at the Dove Canyon home of OCTA CEO Will Kempton. Invitees included Murray, Pringle, former OCTA board member Peter Buffa, OCTA Deputy CEO Darrell Johnson, Disneyland Government Relations Director Carrie Nocella and Orange County Business Council Executive Director Lucy Dunn.

Leos’ proposed ordinance would require some city officials to disclose communications they’ve had with outside parties regarding city business.

“Really, is that too much trouble? Especially when you’re voting on an item that could benefit a friend of yours?” Leos said in an interview last week.

Leos says he’s spoken only to Mayor Tom Tait about the ordinance. Tait said he would review Leos’ idea, but since then Tait hasn’t contacted Leos about the issue, Leos said.

Tait declined to comment on Leos’ proposal when reached by Voice of OC April 5. But he said he that the city is “moving toward greater transparency” by reforming its email retention policy and that he agreed that transparency at City Hall is important.

“Our city manager, Bob Wingenroth, is close to implementing a new policy regarding email retention,” Tait said. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” he added, quoting former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandies.

The city’s email policies came under scrutiny in December after managers in the Planning Department sent memos to employees ordering them to delete unnecessary emails or face “disciplinary action.” Voice of OC’s disclosure of the purge memos triggered sharp criticism from open-government experts, who said the memos appear to order employees to illegally destroy records.

— ADAM ELMAHREK

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