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In San Marcos, the wounds from last November’s elections need more time to heal. Some of those wounds were reopened at a January 27 city council meeting while the council deliberated on Councilmember Mike Preston’s desire to adopt a code of ethics for the city council.

This conflict began in 2007, when newly elected Mayor Jim Desmond appointed Rebecca Jones to fill the seat he vacated on the council. Councilmember Preston didn’t approve of the nomination. Preston felt Jones lacked the experience and qualifications to sit on the council and that the appointment was motivated by politics.

In November 2008, when Jones was running her first real campaign to get reelected, Preston and his wife Luanne Holsizer (president of the Poway Chamber of Commerce), started a “No on Jones” campaign. Preston’s wife sent anti-Jones campaign emails to prominent politicians from her chamber email address, including the offices of U.S. congressmen Brain Bilbray and Darrell Issa.

Mayor Desmond, believing the emails were inappropriate and unethical, stuck up for his political ally and began making some phone calls. He called Poway’s mayor, the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce, and the Boys and Girls Club (where Holsizer serves as a boardmember) to complain about the emails. Councilmember Preston, meanwhile, thought Desmond’s calls to his wife’s employer were unethical and inappropriate.

In a January 27 North County Times editorial column, Councilmember Preston fired back. He wrote an op-ed piece comparing Mayor Desmond to the now infamous and former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich. In his column, Preston stated the city needed a code of ethics for all councilmembers — particularly Mayor Desmond — to abide by.

Preston’s ethics code was the first item on San Marcos’s January 27’s city council agenda.

Instead of support for the ethics measure, four out of the seven public speakers railed against Preston’s proposed ethical code. The concerned citizens said Preston is the one lacking ethics. They pointed to a future veterans’ memorial sponsored by the city as an example. They said (and Councilmember Preston later confirmed) that Preston’s personal website was the only way to obtain information and find out ways to donate for the memorial.

Upon hearing this, Mayor Desmond thought the setup was unethical and inappropriate.

“I’m trying to get this straight. Do we have a link to Mike Preston’s political, campaign website from the city’s website?” asked Desmond.

“Let’s clarify,” Preston responded. “You’re trying to go somewhere. The city asked me if they could put a flyer up on my website. I’m donating my time and energy and my website to the memorial and have for several years. I’m not sure I follow where everyone seems to be going and what the great crime is, but maybe that’s why we need a code of ethics to kind of clarify what’s ethical in the council’s mind.”

The city attorney chimed in, saying that adding a link from the city’s website to Preston’s political website was inadvertent and will be corrected.

Mayor Desmond wasn’t satisfied. “There shouldn’t be any links on the city’s website to anybody’s campaign, political website.” Turning to Preston, Desmond pressed on. “This is your political website, your campaign website?”

“It’s political,” said Preston. “There’s no campaign right now, but it is my political website, and if people want to go look at my opinions, they’re there. You’re welcome to go visit it. It might be interesting.”

“I got a problem with that,” said Desmond in between a chuckle.

“Well, that’s why this code of ethics is important,” said Preston.

For more on San Marcos’s pursuit of ethics in council chambers, flip to Government television, Cox Channel 16, a few channels away from the CW, every second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m.

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