Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How many lawyers does it take to do an ethics training? Three--Leslie Devaney, Priscilla Dugard and Christina Cameron

In the case below, three lawyers from Stutz, Artiano Shinoff & Holtz were apparently needed to give a two-hour ethics training to Murrieta officials.

But Stutz partner Daniel Shinoff has found easier methods of training public employees.

MURRIETA: Ethics training opens eyes
Attorneys from the San Diego firm Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff and Holtz held an ethics training
October 28, 2008

...Attorneys from the San Diego firm Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff and Holtz held an ethics training session for elected and appointed city officials dealing in public business. Members of the City Council and six commissions reviewed issues of transparency in government, reporting personal financial interests, handling public contracts and the misuse of public funds...

"The public's expectations of you are even higher than the law," Devaney told those in attendance. "And avoiding conflicts of interest is your responsibility."

[Blogger's note: This is actually not true. The public would be delighted if officials would simply obey the law. Devaney's problem is that she and her firm have spent so many years helping public entities get away with violating the law, that she has a distorted view of what the law is. The same is true for conflicts of interest, which Ms. Devaney apparently defines as anything that conflicts with her own interests.]

With regard to public meetings, Devaney said new restrictions on serial meetings limit how much discussion of public business can be done outside of a public meeting. If one commissioner e-mails another ... with the intent of getting a consensus, those commissioners will have violated a law that prevents city business from being conducted without the public's knowledge.

[Leslie Devaney's law firm orchestrated the PALMGATE scandal at MiraCosta College.]

..."It would look wrong," said attorney Christina Cameron, regarding financial favors for public officials. "If the public read about it in the paper, they would be sure that (you were) getting a better deal."

Regarding campaign contributions, current officials and even City Council candidates were warned of accepting contributions that might later be suspected of a quid pro quo exchange.

"During the campaign season, promises are going to be problematic, (even) when there is no smoking gun," said attorney Priscilla Dugard.

Murrieta officials have not always been on the right side of conflict of interest allegations. A former city councilman who had also been mayor pleaded guilty in 2007 to criminal counts of submitting a false document and conflict of interest. Jack van Haaster, who was ousted from the City Council in a 2005 recall election, admitted to failing to declare his financial interest in a road paving project when he voted on it.

Councilman Warnie Enochs was admonished by fellow council members in 2006 for helping his son on a contracting job on which Enochs had voted in favor. While Enochs said he did not benefit financially, his colleagues said his action was inappropriate for a public official...

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