Unintended Consequences of Misapplied Transparency

Some are calling for slapping on members of the newly forming Charter Review Committee (CRC) the requirement to file a Form 700. For the uninitiated, the Form 700 is a financial disclosure formed that an elected officials and certain classes of appointed officials – such as planning commissioners — must complete on an annual basis.

In reality, this proposed requirement is being aimed at a single individual, former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle; if he had not been appointed by Councilman Jordan Brandman, I don’t think anyone can seriously claim the Form 700 requirement would be proposed for a temporary committee with only advisory powers. It has no say over city spending or the awarding of city contracts.

There are a number of reasons why this requirement is a bad idea for a committee like the CRC, but the e-mail below from venomous council gadfly William Fitzgerald, head of the one-man “organization” Anaheim HOME, vividly illustrates one of them. Fitzgerald sent this e-mail to Voice of OC reporter Adam Elmahrek and then forwarded it a number of others:

From: WM D FITZGERALD
Subject: Lucille Kring is Dirty
To: “Adam Elmahrek”
Date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 11:04 PM

Adam:

At yesterday’s (Tuesday) council meeting after I spoke at Public Comments, council member Kring spoke (video at 43 minutes) stating that she had never received anything from Disney except some slippers.

I recieved several calls today from HOME members telling me that Kring lied and to go on-line at Anaheim.net for Kring’s form 460.

According to her form 460 for the last three months of last year, she received $1,800 from Disney, $800 of it on 11/2/12 (see attachment).

She also received political donations from Angel Baseball, SOAR itself, and many of the director members of SOAR, including from the hotel owned by Bill O’Connell.

My understanding of the California Fair Political Practice Act ts that an elected official must abstain from voting and discussing any items related to a donor for one year after the donation.

Kring voted for the $158 million giveaway and has not abstained from the Angel Baseball contract negotiations.

Fitzgerald has been flinging accusations of corruption (among other things) at members of the Anaheim City Council for many years, so would think he’d acquired even a basic understanding of conflict-of-interest laws. But like many of his ilk who are more interested in making noise and drawing attention to themselves than in being accurate and truthful, Fitzgerald thinks everything he doesn’t like is a conflict-of-interest.

The e-mail was forwarded enough times to enough people that it eventually made its way to Councilwoman Kring, who sent a response to those she knew had received it pointing out that Fitzgerald’s claim was wrong (which he should have known):

To Everyone,

Again William is wrong.  According to government code sections 82028 (b)(4) and 82030 (b)(1) campaign contributions are not gifts or income to elected members of a governing body.

I am required to list all contributions on 460’s and all gifts, including lunches, that amount to over $50.00 in a calendar year on form 700.,

As you can see, I’ve complied with these regulations.

Lucille Kring

This is not the first time I have seen a self-appointed “watchdog” make allegations of corruption based upon easily-rectified ignorance of the law. A recent example comes to mind: the opinion columnist for the Foothill Sentry community newspaper (which serves east Orange and Anaheim Hills) wrote that a member of the Orange Unified School District of having a conflict-of-interest because he simply knew the representing of a partnership bidding on some OUSD property.

Normal, everyday citizens experience trepidation about speaking at a city council meeting, let alone disclosing for the world to see their private financial information. If the latter is made the price for serving on temporary advisory committees like the CRC, how many of those normal, everyday citizens — whose participation in civic affairs everyone would like to see increased — would want to apply and subject themselves to having their reputations assaulted by crackpots like Fitzgerald with no understanding of the conflict-of-interest legalities (or others with more  precise agendas)?

Given the fractious and negative state of Anaheim politics,  that isn’t a remote danger.

As the VOC’s go-to quotemeister for good-government palaver, Tracy West supports this unnecessary mandate, but acknowledges it is a disincentive to the average citizen:

The reason members of temporary advisory committees probably aren’t required under state law to file Form 700 is the disclosure requirement could discourage residents from volunteering for the committees, Westen said. Another reason is they are only advisory and don’t make final decisions, he said.

OK – since it is unnecessary, doesn’t really serve the purpose for which the Form 700 filing requirement exists and is an additional deterrent to civic participation, then why impose it on CRC other than to strike out a single citizen of Anaheim?  How is that good government?

19 comments

  1. Good government almost always requires individuals to do more than what’s required of them. No where does this ring truer than with our citizen volunteers who serve as public officials on various committees.

    It will take most folks less than an hour to complete a 700 form. This modest investment of time provides a generous gift of transparency and good faith in exchange for a minor inconvenience and disclosure. It is simply an exaggeration to claim that someone who is willing to put up with public scrutiny attached to a high profile appointment to a public position would not be willing to dedicate an additional lunch period to their public service.

    Bad government is almost always fueled by individuals who seek to do the minimum while expecting a maximum personal return. It is hardly an exaggeration to claim that those with something to hide will be the first throw themselves upon the floor bemoaning their own incredible injustice after being confronted with a minor deviation from the absolute minimum effort they demand in exchange for their mere presence.

    I find it troubling that this piece, and those who fund it, would rather dedicate their efforts to supporting the tendencies of bad government—that which would only do what’s required—rather than building bridges in the community by supporting modest investments in transparency and accountability.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      That was lovely, Ryan. Now can we approach the matter practically?

      Take for instance, Amanda Edinger, who had applied for the CAC and was appointed late in the process to fill a vacancy. Amanda is a young stay-at-home Mom who volunteered because she wanted to give back to her city. She’s a political independent with no political ambitions, with nothing to gain.

      Within days of her appointment, she is savaged for having conservative views by Orange Juice Blog, SaveAnaheim.com, OCCORD and the rest of the left-wing mob.

      That’s the current reality in Anaheim. Somehow, I don’t think your civics class rhetoric is if much comfort to the average citizen who finds himself/herself in that situation.

      And you want to throw the ex poste facto requirement of a Form 700 on top of that. If that was going to be a requirement, it should have been stipulated before the application period opened. Why not keep ladling on conditions and requirements until a CRC is arrived at that pleases those pushing this “transparency” measure?

      • Seriously, Matt. What’s up with throwing all my comments into moderation? Seems a bit tacky.

        I don’t see any reason why the Anaheim CIty Council shouldn’t ladle on as many conditions as they see fit in order to form a CRC that suits the mission with which it is charged. It’s a pretty important job and they should take the time to get it right. Thanks for the suggestion, hopefully someone picks it up.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      And one if the things I find most troubling about your comments, Ryan, is your inveterate deployment of straw man arguments for you to then knock down.

      Gosh, if anyone objects to the imposition, after the fact, of a Form 700 requirement that is not required by law on a temporary, advisory committee that has no say over contracts, expenditures, hiring/firing – well then they MUST HAVE SOMETHING TO HIDE!! Just as those proposing this needless mandate must be acting from the purest of motives.

      Be honest, Ryan: just admit that this after-the-fact proposal is aimed solely at Curt Pringle. Then you can proceed from a basis in fact and argue why the council should amend the resolution creating the CRC in order to target a single citizen of Anaheim. I look forward to hearing one of those Fullerton libertarians argue why it is a good idea for an elected official to manipulate the process for political ends.

      • Let’s assume you’re right, Matt– that this is some sort of targeting of Curt Pringle’s lobbying business.

        Exactly what does he lose by filing the form?

        The way I see it, he sure has a lot to gain. Political 101. Pick the low hanging fruit.

        Also, I’ll let you know if I see a Fullerton libertarian. It’s been awhile.

        • Colony Rabblerouser

          “Let’s assume you’re right, Matt”

          If you read the newspaper, Ryan, you wouldn’t need to assume he’s right. Here’s Tait in the OC Register last week:

          “Mayor Tom Tait was clearly irritated about Pringle’s appointment and said each of the panel’s seven unpaid members should be required to report any conflicts of interest. Newly appointed City Attorney Michael Houston told Tait that the committee members are not required to make such disclosures because the panel is temporary.

          “Everyone on this fundamental committee should represent the people, not special interests,” Tait said. “If he is going to serve, then we should at least know whether he has any conflicts of interest and who is paying him for work.”

          Don’t play dumb, Ryan. You’re smart enough to know why Tait is pushing this requirement.

          And what do you mean by “Politics 101: pick the low-hanging fruit?”

          • It means to capture immediately accessible value requiring little effort while planning to extract greater value for more effort (climbing up the tree) at a later point in time.

            • Colony Rabblerouser

              Yeah, I get what the dictionary meaning is. My question is what that has to do with filing a Form 700? I’m starting to think, Ryan, that you really don’t know much about how politics and public affairs works (you just think you do).

              • And I’m starting to think you just like slinging mud!

                If you have a question, ask it. If you want to exchange insults, stick your name on them and own your statement. Otherwise it’s just a coward slinging rocks from behind a wall.

                • Colony Rabblerouser

                  I asked you to explain how your “low hanging fruit” comment is applicable. You seem to think that Pringle filing a Form 700 is some kind of business development strategy. Is that so? if so, please explain the thinking behind that assumption.

              • RE: 700, as stated, it’s an easy way to generate good will for minimal effort, which translates to political capital to be used elsewhere– like driving home proposed reforms in the charter. The whole argument of big bad lobbying Curt Pringle gets a serious dent for an exchange of a little generosity via transparency, assuming of course there’s nothing on the form that generates additional controversy. To Matt’s point, that would include items that may be taken out of context or exaggerated. I suppose the qualification of that risk is up to Mr. Pringle and his associates.

                • Colony Rabblerouser

                  Thanks for the explanation, Ryan. But that is incredibly naive. Good will from whom, exactly? Like anyone bad-mouthing Pringle is going to change their tune if he files a Form 700. Get real, Ryan. You ignore the reality there are people out there who would love to use the information on Pringle’s Form 700 to go after his business – not just take it away, but kill it.

                  • Fear of opposition isn’t a quality to admire in a leader. Everyone has an opinion though. It’s valid and I understand it, but I don’t accept it as a strong indicator of quality.

                    I would hope that Mr. Pringle doesn’t agree with you and chooses to do the right thing for the community rather than the safe thing for his own interests. I believe this is a low risk task that would net him a large benefit– if not in good will at least in reducing the volume of the rabble in the background, which would allow him to focus attention on much needed improvements in the community.

                    My two cents, but you already knew that.

                    • Colony Rabblerouser

                      “Fear of opposition isn’t a quality to admire in a leader.”

                      And needlessly providing enemies with opportunities to harm you isn’t leadership, either (or smart). Filing a Form 700 isn’t “the right thing” – it’s a cynical ploy by Tom Tait. And if you think it would “reduce the volume of the rabble” you are totally naive.

  2. Ryan, is your company hiring because with the dedication you show to this blog, you must have the best gig ever!

  3. Goodwill with whom? You, a handful of bloggers and their liberal commenters? Give it a rest Mr. Cantor – focus on adding sunshine in Fullerton where you live.

    • Sure, why not? Am I not worthy of good will?

      You know the guy who runs this shop lives in Orange, right? Aside from being silly, your comment might as well be directed at him.

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