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Councilmember Items Tackle Nepotism, Criminal Justice Reforms

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By Jorge Casuso

July 26, 2021 -- The City Council on Tuesday will take up a "nepotism policy" for boards and commissions, as well as a resolution calling on LA County's top prosecutor to "uphold the laws of the State."

Placed on the agenda by Mayor Pro Tem Kristin McCowan and Councilmembers Phil Brock and Gleam Davis, the proposed policies for boards and commissions would address "chair terms, nepotism for appointments, and Council liaisons."

They would limit chair terms to a maximum of two years, rotating by election, and limit to two the number of boards and commissions on which a Council liaison can serve.

But it is the "nepotism" policy that would likely have the biggest and most immediate impact.

The proposed policy would bar close family members -- including a spouse/partner, siblings, children or parents -- of sitting Councilmembers from serving on boards, commissions or task forces.

Though the situation is historically rare, it coud have an impact in two current cases.

Mayor Sue Himmelrich's husband, Michael Soloff is a member of the Housing Commission, and Councilmember Oscar de la Torre's wife, Maria Loya, is vying for an open seat on the Planning Commission.

Another Councilmember item -- placed by Brock on the agenda -- would request "that the Office of the Los Angeles County District Attorney uphold the laws of the State of California, whether they were established by the state legislature or the voters of this state."

The resolution also would request that no Special Directives be issued by the District Attorneys Office which "contradict these laws."

The resolution is aimed at recently elected DA George Gascón's liberal policies that some blame for what is widely perceived as an increase in criminal behavior.

The resolution targets Gascón's Directive 20-06, which eliminates cash bail for any misdemeanor, non-serious felony or non-violent felony offense.

It also lists Directive 20-07, which specifies a number of misdemeanor charges to be dismissed, and Directive 20-08, which mainly calls for removing most sentence enhancements in open cases.

The misdemeanors listed in Directive 20-07 are trespassing, disturbing the peace, driving without a valid license or with a suspended license and making criminal threats.

They also include possessing drug paraphernalia, possessing alcohol as a minor, drinking in public, being under the influence of a controlled substance, loitering and resisting arrest.

Each misdemeanor lists exceptions that allow law enforcement to file charges.

The resolution proposed by Brock -- who ran an a tough-on-crime platform -- could serve as a litmus test of a Councilmember's general position on law enforcement polices.

According to the agenda item, "(I)t is of the utmost importance for the City of Santa Monica that policies that aim to restructure or amend prosecutorial directives are consistent with state law and issued with reasonable intent and priority to enhance public safety and protect the general public and victims’ rights."

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