Mission Viejo City Council members recently took a look at rules and regulations for residents appointed to city commissions and moved to remove term limits.
They also shot down a proposed anti-nepotism rule for the appointed boards.
Commissioners are selected by a member of the sitting council. Previously, the members were appointed every two years with a term limit of six years.
If the council finalizes the ordinance later this month, a commissioner could serve for as long as they can secure an appointment.
Each term will still be two years long, so while there is no limit to how long a commissioner can serve, they must still be reappointed every two years to continue on the body.
Additionally, each commissioner still needs a majority vote from the entire council to take up the position.
The item was first proposed at the council’s Jan. 10 council meeting and returned for a first reading on Jan. 24 with a brief discussion.
“What I don’t want to do is close the door on talented commissioners who are doing a good job, who have the experience and have their arms wrapped around the issues of the city and just mandatorily taking them off because their six years is up,” councilmember Trish Kelley said at the Jan. 10 council meeting.
The changes were approved after a first reading last week with a 4-1 vote. Councilmember Cynthia Vasquez voted against the item. She previously said not having any term limits might prevent people from applying for a commission.
“Not having term limits is a mistake,” Vasquez said at the Jan. 10 council meeting. “It just opens us up to a whole host of problems.”
The council also decided city commissioners do not need to adhere to the same district requirements as city council members. This means that a commissioner can live anywhere in the city instead of appointing residents from each city council district.
Additionally, the council discussed potentially creating an anti-nepotism clause that would prevent any city council member from appointing a spouse, child or other close relatives to a city commission.
After the initial Jan. 10 discussion, a split council decided not to move forward with a recommendation to create this clause. Councilmembers Wendy Bucknum and Vasquez wanted to create the anti-nepotism rule, while Councilmembers Bob Reusch, Brian Goodell and Kelley did not.
“We want to create an issue for something that isn’t an issue,” Reusch said at the Jan. 10 council meeting. “I recognize the possibility, but in all fairness, what I see here is creating a rule for something that hasn’t been a problem.”
Reusch and his wife have both served on Mission Viejo city commissions in the past, and he said that there has never been an issue with their roles.
“Obviously, whether it’s directed directly at me or not, it definitely is directed there because as we all know, in the last four years, my wife and I have served concurrently on different commissions,” Reusch said at the Jan. 10 council meeting. “Mission Viejo has never had a nepotism problem. It doesn’t exist to the best of my knowledge, and I think the city would agree that we have never had a problem.’
City Attorney Bill Curley responded to Reusch’s statement with a brief comment: “Correct.”
At last week’s council meeting, Vasquez emphasized her dissatisfaction with not including any nepotism guidelines.
“This also affects public trust in our local government,” Vasquez said Jan. 24. “It’s in our city’s best interest to have our community in mind first and foremost. To have something like that in place — I think something like that gives everyone an opportunity to be in one of these positions in one point or another.”
During public comment, one resident told the council that including some kind of rule against nepotism would be important for the city’s image.
The ordinance will return on the council’s Feb. 14 agenda for a second reading. If approved, the new laws regarding city commissioners will go into effect 30 days after approval.
Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.