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City of Santa Monica Launches Ethics Hotline
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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jorge Casuso

May 10, 2015 -- Santa Monica officials announced this week that the City has launched a hotline to share information about possible ethics violations by City officials and staff.

The City will take tips by phone, email or web 24 hours a day as part of a values-based Code of Ethics for all City staff that was adopted by the City Council in November. The code is based on "the principles of fairness, transparency, accountability, and integrity," City officials said.

The City also will introduce ethics resources for staff and others that include an Administrative Instruction outlining how "ethics investigations will be handled, an intranet page with ethics use cases and other resources for staff, and ongoing training for all staff," officials said.

“Council and City Officials take ethical allegations very seriously and will investigate all reports,” Mayor Tony Vazquez said in a statement.

“The new ethics tip line," Vazquez said, "will be a valuable, but hopefully rarely needed, service where the public can provide information about an ethics violation any time, any day.”

The Code -- which was created using best practices from the Institute of Local Governance and International City Manager’s Association (ICMA) -- "reinforces expectations and provides staff with more resources and training to appropriately handle possible ethical dilemmas," City officials said.

"While the organization has been without a Council-adopted values-based Code of Ethics, the day-to-day standards of ethical behavior by staff have consistently been high," City officials said in a statement Monday.

The City has been guided by state and local laws, as well as long-standing administrative instructions that "detail expectations to avoid conflicts of interests, obligations to remove one from potential conflicts of interest, protections for whistleblowers, and grievance processes," officials said.

City Councilmember Sue Himmelrich, who along with Councilmember Kevin McKeown proposed the code last July, said at the time that it is "meant to help people understand what they ought to do and not catch them at what they shouldn’t do."("Council Wants Santa Monica Government Ethics Code," July 20, 2015).

The ethics code was proposed shortly after the Santa Monica Transparency Project, a group tied to slow-growth activists, accused former City Manager Rod Gould of violating the City's conflict-of-interest law ("Santa Monica Watchdog Group Accuses Former City Manager of Violating Conflict of Interest Law," June 12, 2015).

The ethics hotline is being introduced as the City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to consider recommendations from staff based on an independent ethics investigation into the City Council and City officials that found lapses in judgment ("Santa Monica Ethics Review Finds Lapses in Judgement," April 20, 2016).

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