Silence fell upon the City Council chambers Tuesday after 5th District Councilmember Gerrie Schipske asked for a second to her motion regarding a ban on political contributions from city contractors and forced disclosure of personal communications about public business. The item would have requested the Elections Oversight Committee to look deeper into the issue and make recommendations of potential ordinances revolving around this type of government transparency.
“How sad,” Schipske said in an op-ed written after the motion was rejected. “We are one of the few cities that do not have an outright ban on the contributions from contractors.”
The topics of these proposed recommendations were primarily focused on banning political contributions from private contractors and others having business before City Council, to require Elected Officials to disclose non-public communications about public business and finally, require councilmembers to disclose any communications being received during City Council meetings from lobbyists.
The agenda item requested the EOC have recommendation ready within 90 days, however Schipske found no support from the rest of council. This is not the first time Council has rejected similar items from Schipske. In her blog, Schipske notes that she had wanted members of the Medical Board of California to disclose at the beginning of a vote whether or not he/she has had contact with anyone who has expressed an interest in the council agenda item.
San Jose’s City Council unanimously made permanent requirements that they disclose if a lobbyist contacts a councilmember by text, email or handwritten note during a public meeting and to announce the identity of the lobbyist and the subject of the communication before it comes to a vote. Furthermore in San Jose, a Superior Court judge ruled that private text messages, emails, and other electronic communications sent and received by San Jose officials about city affairs are public record. Los Angeles voters also passed a law two years ago that prohibits campaign contributions from people involved in bidding for city contracts of $100,000 or more.
“We are going to get sued,” Schipske said at the meeting, clearly frustrated with the lack of support for her transparency motion. When Councilmember Schipske continued to rail against the turn of events, Mayor Foster was forced to usher the proceedings along, and moving discussion on to the next item. She took to the internet Wednesday to express her anger, saying she would take the issue to voters if the council will not pass the reforms.
Councilmembers, including Elections Oversight Committee Chair and 4th District Patrick O’Donnell, were not available or refused to comment.
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