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Council to Consider Barring Lobbyists From Boards and Commissions

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

July 8, 2021 -- The City Council on Tuesday will consider taking steps to bar lobbyists from sitting on Santa Monica's Boards and Commissions.

Councilmembers Phil Brock and Christine Parra placed an item on the agenda that would direct staff to craft an ordinance similar to one already in place in Beverly Hills.

The ordinance would "more precisely defines what constitutes a lobbyist/legislative advocate" and "precludes any member of a board, commission, or task force from simultaneously acting" in those roles, according to the agenda item.

The ordinance also would preclude "any individual who in the prior two years has been acting as a lobbyist/legislative advocate from being appointed" to those bodies.

Brock said the agenda item was brought to his attention by elected officials in cities with similar ordinances.

"I don't think the problem is very widespread," he said. "It's another way of having clean government. Not just the pretense of it but the reality."

He added that the proposed ordinance was not prompted by any "specific case" and "is not meant to penalize anyone."

The Beverly Hills ordinance that would likely serve as a model provides the following definition of a legislative advocate:

"Any individual who is compensated or who is hired, directed, retained or otherwise becomes entitled to be compensated for engaging in legislative advocacy and makes a direct or indirect communication with a City official or who is an expenditure lobbyist or financier.

"For example, a legislative advocate may include attorneys, permit expediters, and architects or designers. However, notwithstanding the definition, a legislative advocate shall not include contractors."

The provisions in Beverly Hills do not apply to that City's Architectural Commission or Design Review Commission, which would be the equivalent of Santa Monica's Architectural Review Board (ARB).

In that case the ordinance would not apply "if necessary to meet the membership requirements specified" and the advocacy is limited "to the area of expertise for which (the member) was appointed."

Brock said Tuesday's agenda item would revise a 2015 ordinance that requires paid lobbyists to register and file quarterly disclosure forms about their work, clients and compensation.

Brock notes that then City Attorney Marsha Moutrie anticipated revisiting the ordinance.

"Since this would be a completely new program for Santa Monica, staff anticipates reporting back to Council periodically, including with suggestions for revisions and improvements based on experience,” Moutrie wrote at the time.

"So we are revising and improving," Brock said.

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