Santa Ana Code of Ethics Committee Meets

Councilman Sal Tinajero (Ward 6) - Photo: Chris Prevatt/LiberalOC

SANTA ANA — On Tuesday night the Santa Ana Code of Ethics and Conduct Ad-Hoc committee met at city hall to conduct the biennial review of the Santa Ana Code of Ethics and Conduct (COEC). More than two dozen people showed up to the meeting and many took the opportunity to address Council members Sal Tinajero and Vincent Sarmiento. The committee was chaired by Tinajero and was short a member as Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez had resigned from the committee a couple weeks ago.

The public comments primarily expressed a concern over the lack of clear consequences for violations of the COEC and the absence of an enforcement mechanism. For example:

In the private industry, Companies adopt ethics policies so that employees can be disciplined or even fired for ethical violations.  And there are many examples of some powerful people being brought down by ethical violations.

Likewise, here in the City of Santa Ana, a code of ethics should be used to discipline or fire employees (whether they be elected, appointed or paid staff).

But if “employees” are never disciplined or merely slapped on the wrist, and continue to violate the ethics policy, why even have an ethics policy?

I’m here tonight because one of the Council members continues to have a problem following the ethics policy.  Not long ago, that council member violated the ethics policy so egregiously that the Council was forced to act.  But they fumbled it.  Instead of sending a strong message to all council members, employees and residents that ethics violations will not be tolerated, you sent a message that council members can continue to violate ethics policies with impunity.  The “punishment” that was meted out was instead gleefully accepted as a venue for an invitation only campaign rally.

And she continues to waste City resources making unreasonable demands, continues to put the same item on the agenda over and over, and continues to bully staff and all of you.

I propose that either you start enforcing the Code of Ethics or you abolish it, otherwise it is meaningless.

Dave Hoen – Morrison Park

This was one of the last comments made but reflects a good bit of the mood of the 25 people who showed up for the meeting held in the cramped quarters of the 8th floor conference room at city hall.

Resident and Santa Ana businessman Mike Tardiff raised the issue of a lack of a clear process to report possible COEC violations. He told the committee that he had submitted a complaint directly to the City Attorney as well as the members of the Council several months ago. He reported he has never received a response to his complaint, much less acknowledgment of its receipt.

Al Amezcua suggested that the policy needs to be revised to include a mechanism to issue or recommend consequences to violations that is transparent and independent.

Jeff Dickman expressed disappointment with the level of importance given to the work of the committee. From the changing meeting times and infrequency of meetings, to the location in a small cramped conference room, there is an appearance that the work is not taken seriously.

In fact, the location and time of the meeting posed a problem as the City Hall doors were locked shortly after 5:30 pm leaving at least five people waiting outside the doors for about 20 minutes before they were let in.

Councilman Vincent Sarmiento - Photo: Chris Prevatt/LiberalOC

Councilman Sarmiento addressed the concerns regarding the change in meeting times. According to Sarmiento he had a family emergency that would have made him late for the first scheduled meeting. When he learned after the meeting was scheduled that Council member Alvarez had resigned from the committee his attendance on time was required for the meeting to be convened. That required the date to be changed.

There was a little bit of confusion regarding the meeting process governing how the public could dialogue with the committee. Once Tinajero clarified that, the conversation settled down to a reasoned dialogue between interested city residents and the committee.

Councilman Sarmiento told the committee that comments by community members which “paint all council members with the same brush are difficult to understand.” Resident Debbie McEwen provided him with an explanation for the cause of residents painting the Council as a whole in public comments.

The Council Meeting Decorum Rules — “Mayor Pro Tem Alvarez has rudely pointed out to commenters ‘You cannot say my name!’ when people wish to criticize her or her actions in public comments. If we cannot say your names we have to address you a group. You can blame Claudia for that,” McEwen said.

The discussion continued with residents calling for more transparency. Citing the perception of the council operating in secret and ignoring rules like the COEC as they applies to them or commissioners, the need for a clear and transparent process for handling complaints from the public was repeated multiple times.

Councilman Tinajero was asked directly who complaints should be sent to Tinajero said; “If concern of a violation arises this committee is who should be contacted.”

Councilman Sarmiento clarified that when the committee created the COEC they opted to leave out an enforcement or adjudication process because they were unable to find a perfect process that was free of political influence. The models used by other cities have commissions appointed by the Council and such a process can be perceived as politically influenced. Therefore, the policy was drafted to be “self enforcing.”

At the close of the meeting, Tinajero and Sarmiento pledged to set another meeting of the committee to further work to address the concerns that had been raised. The committee should be announcing its next meeting in a couple weeks it’s next meeting date. They also committed to providing the public with better notification of the meeting date and will set its time and location in a way that is more conducive to productive dialogue.

On the whole I have to compliment Councilmen Tinajero and Sarmiento for what appears to be a commitment for thoughtful dialogue with the community to address needed changes to the Code of Ethics and Conduct ordinance.

NOTE: Contrary to what has been reported by blogger Art Pedroza, who did not attend the meeting, there were no demands from those attending the meeting to be appointed to an ethics committee.

  6 comments for “Santa Ana Code of Ethics Committee Meets

  1. jose s.
    December 8, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Pedroza wasn’t even at the meeting? ! What an f-ing clown. I would say this on his blog but like my last three comments I’m sure they would be altered.

  2. December 8, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Locking residents out of City Hall was a mistake or was it a message?

  3. Mike Tardif
    December 8, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    “Councilman Tinajero … said; “If concern of a violation arises this committee is who should be contacted.”

    I was glad to hear that – so at this meeting I publicly re-filed my ethics complaint against Sean Mill. I provided a copy to Tinajero, Sarmiento, Maria Huisar and the City Attorney.

    We will see if I get a response this time.

  4. Mike Tardif
    December 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    To: Santa Ana City Council Ad hoc Committee on Code of Ethics and Conduct – Dec. 6, 2011
    I would like to inform you of improper conduct by an appointee to the Santa Ana Planning Commission. In the course of a debate concerning medical marijuana dispensaries on the New Santa Ana Blog – Sean Mill, unprovoked by anyone, conducted himself in a manner which is in violation of the Santa Ana Code of Ethics and Conduct and not fitting for an appointed official of the City of Santa Ana. Following are the offending excerpted remarks:

    Sean Mill on May 24th: “Speaking of Buffao Wild Wings … We could’ve had one of these fine establishments here in Santa Ana but a small handful of folks including … Mike Tardif caused the applicant so many problems that they packed up and left.”

    “So it is not just medical marijuana dispensaries that Mike Tardif has an issue with, he seems to scream “NO” at new businesses in general. How does he expect us to generate any revenue if we chase all the businesses out of town? I thought he was a small government, anti-tax, Republican. It appears to me that is is nothing more than your typical NIMBY from the “Coalition of No”.”

    Sean Mill on May 25th: (in ref. to Mike Tardif) “Standing in opposition to everything and constantly acting as a contrarian to the actions of our great council majority is not going to help move our city forward. The fact that you disagree with my position and have a very hostile hatred of me does not equal a violation of the ethics code.”

    Mr. Mill is entitled to his opinions and to express them in a public forum as well. However, as an appointed official of the City of Santa Ana, and having pledged to conduct himself according to the Code of Ethics and Conduct, he has an obligation to live up to the letter and the spirit of the Code. He should engage residents through rational discussion – not through a heated, accusatory, belittling and thoroughly unprofessional rant in a public forum. This type of behavior generates bad feelings and division and will not accomplish anything positive for the City of Santa Ana.

    As Santa Ana City Attorney you know the following “Core Values” of the Code:

    I treat my fellow officials, staff and the public with patience, courtesy and civility, even when we disagree on what is best for the community.

    I work towards consensus building and gain value from diverse opinions. I conduct myself in a courteous and respectful manner at all times during the performance of my official City duties.

    I encourage full participation of all persons and groups ..

    (The) Code of Conduct is intended to be a reflection of the community’s values as articulated by the Mayor and City Council as they represent the will of the people of the City of Santa Ana.

    The Code requires compliance with both the letter and spirit of conduct befitting an appointed official representing the City of Santa Ana. When Sean Mill speaks in a public forum on matters which have or may come before his commission he puts on himself the mantle of authority granted to him by his appointment. In that capacity he is therefore obliged to uphold his pledged obligation to the standards of the Code of Ethics and Conduct.

    In singling me out with his inflammatory and divisive speech Sean Mill has engaged in behavior which is in direct opposition to, and makes a mockery of, the values expressed in the Code of Ethics and Conduct.

    As a resident, property and business owner in Santa Ana I feel that it is important to work with representatives of the City who treat the public with “patience, courtesy and civility and work toward consensus building” – Mr. Mill does not fit that bill. I hereby request action by the City Attorney’s Office to assure that Mr. Mill no longer conducts himself in violation of the Code of Ethics and Conduct.

    Sincerely,

    Mike Tardif

    • December 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      Careful Mike, Sean might consider this a terrorist threat and call the cops on you ;)

  5. StanOllie
    December 8, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Is it me or do Sarmiento and Tinajero resemble a Latino version of Laurel and Hardy. Sal is the fat one of course

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