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Council Finalizes Santa Monica Anti-Corruption Measure for Ballot, Names Friendship City
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

July 29, 2016 -- After several lengthy sessions tweaking the details, the City Council on Tuesday finalized a ballot measure that proposes changes to Santa Monica’s anti-corruption law commonly known as the Oaks Initiative.

Approved by Santa Monica voters in 2000, the Oaks Initiative prohibits a City official from receiving benefits, including campaign contributions, by making a decision that helps another party such as approving a contract or development agreement.

Any changes to the law must be approved by voters. Among the proposed changes are clarifications of definitions for terms in the law and placing enforcement in the hands of the City Attorney’s criminal division or an independent investigator.

Also with the amendment, an official would still be restricted to the law after leaving the local government. A person could not just receive the benefit as an employee in another city.

It is not clear if there will be much, if any, opposition to the measure. The details that sparked the most debate among council members and local activists were removed before the measure’s passage.

The catalyst for creating the measure was a report from legal and ethics consultant John Hueston ("Santa Monica Ethics Review Finds Lapses in Judgement," April 20, 2016).

Hueston had been consulted following the Elizabeth Riel affair, in which an employee was controversially fired before her first day of work. But his report addressed ethics issues overall in Santa Monica government.

Also at the meeting, the council passed a resolution naming Kizugawa, Japan as a friendship city at the recommendation of the Santa Monica Sister Cities Association.

The resolution says the two cities “share similar goals of international cooperation, mutual prosperity and world peace” and that the purpose of the relationship is to “increase cultural exchanges, educational opportunities, technical exchanges for both cities and to increase awareness of both cities.”

Friendship city is a lower status than sister city, but Mayor Tony Vazquez said Kizugawa could be elevated in the future.

Santa Monica last year celebrated its 40th anniversary of being a sister city with another Japanese municipality--Fujinomiya (“Santa Monica Celebrates 40th Anniversary with Sister City in Japan,” August 18, 2015).

Other Santa Monica sister cities include Mazatlan in Mexico, Hamm in Germany and Cassino and Sant’Elia in Italy.

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