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Council Approves Nepotism Policy for Boards and Commissions

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By Jorge Casuso

July 28, 2021 -- Close family members of City Councilmembers will be barred from serving on Boards and Commissions under a new nepotism policy approved by the City Council Tuesday.

Part of an update to policies for boards, commissions and task forces, the nepotism policy -- which bars spouses, siblings, children and parents of Councilmembers -- ,will result in the resignation of Mayor Sue Himmelrich's husband, Housing Commissioner Michael Soloff.

It also will bar Councilmember Oscar de la Torre's wife, Maria Loya, who has applied for an open seat on the Planning Commission, from being appointed.

Councilmember Phil Brock, a member of the Ad Hoc Committee that proposed the policies, tried to allow existing members of Boards and Commissions to serve the remainder of their terms.

"It seems that there is only one current member affected by the policy," Brock said. "Mr. Soloff was appointed before Councilmember Himmelrich was elected. He has done an excellent job."

Brock's substitute motion failed for lack of a second.

"We believe that if there was a family member sitting on a board or commission, they would have to resign," said Councilmember Gleam Davis, who made the motion to bar existing members.

"This is a policy that we want to enact, we should enact immediately," said Davis, who served on Ad Hoc Committee.

"We either believe in a nepotism policy or we don't," said Councilmember Kristin McCowan, a member of the committee.

The policy was approved with a 6 to 0 vote, with Himmelrich recusing herself due to a conflict of interest.

After Himmelrich returned to the dais, the Council approved two other policies.

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

Tuesday's vote comes two weeks after the Council approved a policy that "precludes any member of a board, commission, or task force from simultaneously acting" as a lobbyist, according to the agenda item ("Council to Consider Barring Lobbyists From Boards and Commissions," July 8, 2021).

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.

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