Our Voice: Tracy’s ethics opportunity
by Press Editorial Staff
Jul 27, 2012 | 4744 views | 8 8 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week, the Tracy City Council agreed to take tentative steps toward a code of conduct for elected city officials.

While the enthusiasm was underwhelming, the action is a move in the right direction.

The issue hasn’t been visited in earnest since 2007, when several citizens and one member of the City Council stood in favor of writing an ethics policy that extended beyond the guidelines of the California Constitution and the Brown Act, the state’s open-meeting law.

At the time, the city faced a public-records request and lawsuit brought by the Tracy Press seeking correspondence sent from a councilwoman’s private email address allegedly regarding city business. A record-purging campaign by the city coincided with the requests and the lawsuit.

The Press lost the legal battle on procedural grounds. Documents were cleared. And, sadly but not unexpectedly, the conduct code concept was brushed off by a majority of the council.

Five years later, with a mostly new council and different management in City Hall, the underlying issue remains. The public official-private citizen dichotomy is a thorny one, and elected officers can use the help navigating it.

The July 17 proposal offered by city staff members would take steps toward this end, with part of one sample code stating: “City Council members may only use city resources … to conduct city business. Such resources may not be used for personal or political purposes.”

A helpful addition might read something like this: “Correspondence to and from City Council members regarding business before the council and city activities shall be considered public records, whether generated using private or public resources.”

Such language would ensure elected officials could not neuter the California Public Records Act by simply using a personal email account to conduct behind-the-scenes business.

It would also be an extra guard against serial meetings, an illegal arrangement in which elected officials and individuals with business before the city reach a voting consensus on policy through a series of private meetings.

At the same time, it’s imperative to open lines of communication between the council and Tracy residents. Democracy depends on that exchange being free and unencumbered. Overly rigid rules can’t come between the citizenry and its elected officials.

Final adoption of any code is at least several weeks away. But whatever is finally produced, it should be based on the principle that a code of conduct should be in the spirit of opening, not closing, government to the people.

Comments
(8)
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me-here
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August 29, 2012
Ooops, you were right. I was thinking "Tolbert" and I knew it wasn't her. It was the then Vice Mayor using her personal email for Council items.
me-here
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August 26, 2012
rayderfan: Not Ms Tucker....know your facts, please. by the way... 49er fan here.
me-here
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August 26, 2012
When a council woman uses her personal email to avoid having a council matter on record... that's out of order and subject to being investigated.

Then, on your comments about Mark Connolly, he's a pretty darned good lawyer AND ethical... which is questionable on some members on City Council.

My concern about the "gift" of a swim complex, is who is in Serpa's pocket to keep fighting an unlawful "contract"? Put you @#$% pool and houses somewhere else. There's a lot of other land in Tracy better suited. Since Serpa doesn't own the land, he's not restricted to Tuso's property. I like the Press and Jon. At least they go to the Council meetings.
rayderfan
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August 26, 2012
Could not agree more.

BTW; What was so confidential that Ms. Tucker felt she couldn't share it with the public anyway? If she was discussing the city project then it shiuld not have been from her personal e-mail; unless of course she had something to hide.

If that's the case then she was commiting an illegal act.

!!

This type of behavior by our public officials is why we need to vote out the incumbents and vote in some people who will clean house at city hall. The problem rests with the city staff and their need to hide things from the public.

If they want to hide things they should get jobs in private industry and let public business be be public.
Atari
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July 29, 2012
RGA. Is it like MLB baseball where you can strike out, but as long as you would be batting over .200 batting average: H/AB? Or RBI where a team mate makes the play? My comment had nothing to do with someone's stats.
bobrod
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July 27, 2012
We should all remember this when it's time to vote.
Atari
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July 28, 2012
It seems to me this newspaper always comes across as a lovetorn and jaded lady who tore her own dress to spite herself. Me, me, me. I'm the victim here. Oh Ve! Mama mia! And for Pete's sake I am finding it harder and harder to believe anything the "Tracy Press Editorial Staff" writes anymore.

For starters, why did the Tracy Press Staff forget to say that they went after a council person's PERSONAL email account? And "procedural"? There's no easy way, so I'm going to come out and just say it. PROCEDURAL MY A$$, Tracy Press Editorial Staff. Maybe your lawyer sucks.

First, did you make your bed with that lawyer who is attempting to delay the swimming pool? I doubt an "ethics" problem exists where the Tracy Press Editorial Staff believes. Why not keep better company next time some lawyer opens his mouth and feeds you a line about a lucrative case?

Lucrative probably meant free front page advertising for him?

I mean, you might look in the mirror if you think ethics are the problem on Tenth Street. You are a bankrupt business so stop pretending to be the victim. Your loss. Get over it and grow up. You don't need her emails to write an editorial that rocks.

A new low.
rosa62
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July 28, 2012
I know Mr. Connelly won the case over the RGA's so he must not be to bad of a lawyer Atari.


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