Anaheim Considers “Sunshine Ordinance” And Restrictions on Lobbyists

JEFF ANTENORE, Voice of OC Contributing Photographer

Anaheim City Council Members Kris Murray, Lucille Kring, Dr. Jose F. Moreno, Mayor Tom Tait, Denise Barnes and Stephen J. Faessel, from left, (Councilmember James Vanderbilt wasn't present but attended by telephone) conduct a City Council meeting in their chambers at City Hall on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.

Anaheim City Council members are considering a “sunshine ordinance” that would restrict city officials and employees from influencing city decisions until two years after their employment ends, and require paid lobbyists to register with the city.

The ordinance, proposed by Councilman Jose Moreno, also would require certain city officials to retain all email communications for 90 days, rather than the current 37 days, and calls for signs to be posted at the sites of large-scale developments explaining the project. The proposed ordinance is up for a vote at Tuesday evening’s city council meeting.

Many sunshine ordinances in California — such as ones adopted by Santa Ana, Oakland, San Francisco and Contra Costa County – largely focus on clarifying policies on public access to records and public meetings.

Several cities, however, also have separate restrictions on lobbying by former elected officials, city commissioners and executive-level city employees.

Moreno, who promised to introduce a sunshine ordinance upon his inauguration to the city council in December, said Monday his ordinance was sparked in part by his concern with the way a previous city council passed major tax subsidies for luxury hotel developers.

“…It wasn’t clear who was talking to the city council, who was advocating for certain positions,” Moreno said. “And one of the things I ran on was transparency and integrity, so I thought it was really important to put forth an ordinance that shines as much as possible [a light] on the workings of city government.”

He believes the ordinance will help build trust in local government among residents.

“We are a city that has extensive corporate interests embedded in it, so it’s really important a clear distinction is made between those who run the city and those who have a special interest in the city,”  Moreno said.

Revolving Door Bans

Perhaps the most ubiquitous example in Anaheim of an official-turned-lobbyist is the city’s former mayor, Curt Pringle.

Pringle, who was mayor from 2002 to 2010, also owns a lobbying firm, Pringle & Associates, and is a registered lobbyist with the county of Orange. His firm represents several companies that have done business before the city, such as Anaheim Resort Transportation, Anaheim Gardenwalk and Aramark, to name just a few.

It’s not illegal to lobby a government agency you once worked for or represented.

The state Political Reform Act generally restricts state officials and certain local officials, such as city managers and elected officials, from being paid to attempt to influence their agencies on matters they worked on while employed by the government.

The restriction on the so-called “revolving door” between public and private employment only applies for one year after a person permanently leaves their job.

Moreno’s ordinance would extend that restriction to prohibit “any city official or employee of Anaheim” from lobbying the city for two years after their employment ends.

“I’m not so concerned that there’s lobbying happening, it’s part of the American political system and free speech,” said Moreno. “But people should know if a paid lobbyist is trying to influence the city council.”

It would also prohibit former city officials and employees from “accepting employment from a person or organization that entered into a contract with the city” within a year of their departure if the city official “personally or substantially participated in the award of the contract.”

City officials and employees also would be prohibited for two years from competing for city contracts that they formerly made recommendations on or approved.

Other cities, such as Los Angeles and Palo Alto, have similar revolving door bans.

The ordinance would also require lobbyists to register with the city and imposes a fine, the cost of which has yet to be set, for those who fail to register.

Public Notice

Moreno’s ordinance also largely restates existing laws regarding access to public records, when meeting agendas become public and how meetings are broadcast on television and online.

But it does add additional requirements, such as requiring all email traffic for city council members, their staff, and city department heads be retained for 90 days.

Government agencies regularly destroy old records on a schedule, including emails.

The city’s policy is to preserve some emails generated by staff but to periodically wipe others from the city’s servers every 37 days.

The ordinance would also require greater public notice regarding large-scale developments.

That means signs would be posted at the site of major developments with information about the proposed project. It would also create a webpage with a list of major developments, their cost and timeline.

The city council will consider the sunshine ordinance at its regular meeting Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • David Zenger

    I would love to see a list of all the lobbyists working in Anaheim. That would be the shortest list ever compiled.

  • Cynthia Ward

    This is great, and any effort toward transparency is welcome. But Anaheim already fails to enforce the laws already on the books. Anaheim has a Conflict of Interest Policy that is rooted in State Law (Political Reform Act) requiring CONSULTANTS from ALL departments to report Form 700 under the “broadest” disclosure. Yet, NOT ONE of the consultants working on the Angels give-away scam in 2013 had filed a 700 form. NOT ONE. And the City spent 3 years and hundreds of thousands in public funds fighting me in court before bothering to disclose that they failed to give me the docs because they DIDN’T HAVE THEM! When the Chamber was handling the Enterprise Zone, their staff filed only ONE of the FOUR required pages of 700 forms, and Chamber CEO Ament didn’t file HIS until September, the same day I picked up the docs. This despite a deadline of April 1 that is supposed to attach daily fines to those who don’t file on time. So I appreciate the extra boost for taxpayers, but how are we enforcing this when we don’t enforce existing law?

    BTW–the deletion of emails is for those using the City’s actual server. All too often elected leaders use personal devices and accounts to conduct the City’s business, so we then depend on their self-reporting to obtain CPRA requests for those communications, since the servers/devices are not under City control. There should be a REQUIREMENT to use ONLY City servers or devices that can be searched by the City’s IT. One can use a personal account, simply “cc” the office account to create a public record. I assume local officials are not handling items of national security…

    We are working hard to protect our castle from the ravages of outsiders, but honestly we are being destroyed from WITHIN. The NUMBER ONE area where Anaheim has issues that are COMPLETELY WITHIN THE CITY’S CONTROL are with SOME (not ALL) key senior staff, department heads. And let me be clear, the rank and file staff at City Hall are amazing people who work their butts off, but too many of them have become discouraged because they report to people whose moral compass is completely broken. We need to restore dignity to the idea of “public service” and give our front line boots-on-the-ground staff confidence in the team they work for. This begins with the City Manager following up on Department Heads and their direct-report departmental senior staff. How to build in “do you job” into an Ordinance is beyond me, but clearly nothing else has worked. I pray we KEEP Linda Andal as the new CM, as I think she has the skill set and mentality to make sure things get done properly. God knows Paul Emery not only failed to do his job he was an open obstacle to anyone getting info out of City Hall.

    The Brown Act says City Council cannot discuss the sale, lease, or use of public property even in Closed Session without identifying the property in Closed Session agendas. So STAFF (not subject to Brown Act) simply handles negotiations completely outside of public view, and apparently without Council approval or knowledge (how does THAT work?) and then it comes to Council for public disclosure just as it becomes a done deal. Again, pointing to the Stadium almost-scam of 2013, City Attorney Michael Houston authorized Charles Black to negotiate for both the Stadium AND Stadium District, while only disclosing the Stadium in Closed Session agendas. The first time the public knew the surrounding 150 acres was on the bargaining table was September 3 when we sat in amazement watching Paul Emery, Tom Morton, and Charles Black pretending this was the very first discussion ever of the possibility that the surrounding real estate would be up for grabs too. (In court the Angels later outed the City for discussing the Stadium District in closed session long before the September 3 MOUs.) So SOME (not ALL) key staff/department heads are authorized (by someone) to run off and create the back room deals that elected officials would have to disclose if they did it. And they have to know there will be no consequence as the majority will cover for them if caught.

    Can we add to the Ordinance a requirement that the City Manager review the work of departments that report to them, requiring all involved to actually READ documents, and provide full primary source documents in support of their claims, when reporting to the City Council? How about submitting staff reports under penalty of perjury/under oath? (Not that this stops the misinformation, I have seen outright lies submitted by staff in “declarations” to court, with no consequence when the apparent perjury is made known to the City, But it might slow the process a little.)

    I have seen department heads fail to conduct even the most basic due diligence when reviewing documents submitted by outside firms, in some cases the cost to taxpayers is in the tens of millions because we are missing out on benefits businesses agreed to pay but don’t appear to be paying, because those senior staff have failed to follow up on those obligations. But they show up at Council meetings, claiming they “reviewed” agreements and all is A-OK. THIS is why Anaheim’s City Manager needed to be replaced, and if anyone wants to argue I have the docs to show all of this.

    That outright misinformation by department heads, supporting truly bad decisions in City Council meetings, often results in greater responsibility/expansion of fiefdom for the SAME department heads making the recommendations, which leads to their expanded paychecks. Conflict, much? Look at the staff reports and their results for the Convention Center expansion. $200MM in additional debt from the GENERAL FUND, and the meetings show Lucille Kring was convinced these were genuine REVENUE BONDS with a specific revenue stream (not simply the revenue stream of the GENERAL FUND forking over a “lease payment”) and Gail Eastman was convinced the money came from ATID, and BOTH those misunderstandings were the result of staff statements that appear to intentionally mislead leaders into voting for those projects. Watch CS and E staff get big fat raises for having to manage an expanded Convention Center that they recommended expanding!

    Meanwhile, not only does some staff (again not ALL staff) appear to not pursue compliance/cover for business entities who owe taxpayers benefits, they also do the bidding of lobbyists. Nope, it is not just elected leaders who bow to the lobbyists. I have docs showing a department head not only gave an early head’s up for upcoming work to a lobbyist representing an architecture firm looking for new work, he also appears to have used staff time to check other departments to see what work THEY had coming up for the lobbyist’s client, prior to those jobs going out to bid in a public process. Now perhaps the department head does that for ANYONE who contacts them, in which case what is the point of having a bid process website with posting for upcoming RFPs? (I am pretty sure if I contacted the same department they would consider the request a CPRA and take 10 days to answer then demand an additional 14 days for the “unusual circumstances” of a “voluminous record” to report, even when the response is a page or two.)

    Yes, putting boundaries on outside groups like lobbyists is a good thing, but when STAFF is directly reporting to the City Manager and we STILL see misinformation promoted, basic due diligence ignored, and laws blown off as somehow optional, one wonders how we handle the misdeeds that occur right under our noses?

  • Bert Ashland

    The best you could do was come up with Curt Pringle? With all due respect, Curt hasn’t held elective office in years. The Moreno proposal would only restrict lobbying by former electeds for two years. Come on Thy, take Curt on for legit stuff…not lobbying 7 years after leaving office.

    • David Zenger

      Maybe it’s a reminder of all the seeds Pringle planted during the last few years of his mayorship only to harvest as soon as he led office. This would be a disincentive for anyone wanting to repeat that performance. Let’s see. Who is termed out in 2018…

      • @Dan Chmielewski

        Tait is. And he runs a business that caters to local governments

  • David Zenger

    And why is e-mail deleted after 37 days? The amount of data involved is negligible. It doesn’t need to be deleted at all.

  • RyanCantor

    Could use one of these in Fullerton, too.

    Excellent first step. Well done, Dr. Moreno.