Anaheim’s Lobbyist Sunshine Ordinance Will Be Largely Self-Enforced

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.

New restrictions on lobbyists now are in effect in Anaheim, although enforcement of the law – known as the sunshine ordinance – will be largely self-reported.

“We’re not going to go out and start looking [for violations],” said city spokesman Mike Lyster. “But just the fact that this city has this ordinance in the books says a lot. It sets a high expectation.”

The city attorney will not be proactively questioning whether certain city employees and contractors are in compliance with the law, said Lyster. Instead, council members or city commissioners can request the city clerk to determine whether someone is a lobbyist and needs to register.

So far, only one lobbyist, George Urch on behalf of the Honda Center, has filed a registration form. Lobbyists are required to register within 15 days after any lobbying activity. The first quarterly report isn’t due until January 2018.

The sunshine ordinance, passed by the City Council in July, went into effect last week and includes a “revolving door” ban barring elected officials and employees from lobbying the city for two years after they leave their jobs, the toughest restriction on government lobbying in Orange County.

It also prohibits the city from hiring people who simultaneously work at lobbying firms, and requires lobbyists – defined as people paid at least $500 to influence legislation or administrative actions — to register with the city and file quarterly reports disclosing their clients and campaign contributions made to council members.

At a city council meeting in July, Councilman Steve Faessel questioned whether the ordinance’s prohibition on hiring employees of lobbying firms, proposed by Councilman Jose Moreno, was targeting part-time aides employed by himself and Councilwomen Kris Murray and Lucille Kring.

Faessel’s former aide, Crystal Norman, who worked for the public affairs firm FSB Core Strategies, voluntarily resigned three weeks ago, although Faessel said it was because she received an offer for a full-time position at the firm, not because of the sunshine ordinance.

Jeff Flint, the company’s CEO, is a registered lobbyist with the county of Orange and has represented the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.

“Regardless of the sunshine ordinance and what my feelings happened to be about it, I didn’t think that she would have been affected by it,” Faessel said of Norman. “She personally is not a lobbyist, and whether the firm she was working for was considered a lobbyist has yet to be determined.”

Councilwoman Denise Barnes’ aide, Matthew Holder, is a former lobbyist who still is listed in the county registry. Holder said the county registry is out of date,  he has not paid any fees and no longer lobbies the county.

Other council members have well-connected part-time aides who, while not registered lobbyists, work on behalf of public agencies and private companies.

Murray’s aides – Arianna Barrios and Justin Glover — come from the public relations firm Communications LAB, which also works as a consultant for her political campaign. The company’s clients include Poseidon Water, The Orange County Transportation Authority, and Southern California Edison, according to an economic disclosure form for Barrios filed in March 2017.

Kring’s aide, Steve Lodge, was a public affairs consultant for Hill International, a city construction contractor, before he became a part-time council aide. Lodge has since severed ties with the company.

Aides for Councilmen Jose Moreno and James Vanderbilt previously also worked or volunteered for their campaigns. There’s no prohibition in the sunshine ordinance on council members hiring campaign staff, although state law prohibits public employees from doing political work while on the clock.

Mayor Tom Tait is the only member of the council with a full-time employee, his Chief of Staff Mishal Montgomery.

“Where we’re at now is each council member does believe all their aides comply,” said Lyster. “If there were to be any additional inquiry, we would leave it to a council member to bring it up and go through that process.”

Lyster said if members of the public want to report a violation of the sunshine ordinance, they would need to bring the issue to the attention of a council member, city commissioner or hearing officer.

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

  • Cynthia Ward

    That night I begged them to put teeth into this. If the City is “not going to go looking” for violations, put in a provision that lets the public file a complaint with assurance it will be followed up. Instead the City keeps leaving it to citizens to file expensive litigation when they violate their own policies and the law, and then blame us for the cost of the lawsuit they created the need for. So frustrating. Where is the integrity?

  • Bill421

    Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t this like requiring a rapist to turn himself in within 15 days of any raping ?

  • Cynthia Ward

    Which “City Commissioner” are we supposed to bring this to?
    Why would we believe the City would enforce this? They don’t bother with the State mandated Political Reform Act’s requirement for 700 forms, which the City’s Conflict of Interest policy is supposed to follow. What a joke. No teeth. All smoke and mirrors. So tired of the show without substance.

  • RyanCantor

    “We’re not going to go out and start looking [for violations],” said city spokesman Mike Lyster. “But just the fact that this city has this ordinance in the books says a lot. It sets a high expectation.”

    Kinda like that camping ordinance, right?