David Dodd 2:53 a.m., May 21
Out with the old...
Chula Vista's newly sworn in council member, Mary Salas, anxious to repeal ordinance
At a December 4 Chula Vista council meeting, incumbent Pamela Bensoussan and Mary Salas were sworn in. A short time later, during council comments, Salas declared that she was not happy with an ordinance passed in November regarding Legislative Council and stated that she wants to "repeal" it.
Salas was supported by Mayor Cox and Bensoussan and the item was agendized for December 11.
Prior to the November election, campaign signs referred to Salas and Bensoussan as "united." Some have speculated the signs forecasted a new voting block on the council.
The ordinance in question stems from Proposition C passed by the residents in 2012. Aside from setting term limits and compensation for the city attorney, the ballot measure sought "to authorize the City Council to establish the office of Legislative Counsel to advise the City council on it's legislative duties and on conflict of interest issues..." The majority of the voters, 53.44 %, approved the measure.
Chula Vista's November ordinance put in place a legislative counsel. Among other duties, the counsel would advise the Ethics Commission.
In a similar manner, the city of San Diego has an Ethics Commission which does not report to the mayor or the city council and is not advised by the city attorney.
In 2004, San Diego passed proposition E which reads: "Shall the city charter be amended to enable the Ethics Commission to retain its own legal counsel, rather than be represented by the City Attorney whose clients include City Officials who may be investigated by the Ethics Commission?"
During a recent Chula Vista Ethics Commission meeting, long-time civic activist Peter Watry raised concerns about the need for an independent counsel. Watry had requested an investigation into campaign contributions received by a council member. Watry asserted the donations were timed with a council vote on a zoning change that would be advantageous to the donors.
The commission voted not to pursue the allegation. According to Watry, the commission relied on the advice from the city attorney's office presented at the meeting which raises the question of conflict-of-interest.