Summary of the Board of Ethics Meeting on 2/20/08
By Frank Luzzaro
December 17, 2007
CHULA VISTA: Chula Vista residents Frank and Susan Luzzaro have filed a complaint with the city's Ethics Commission against Richard D'Ascoli, a member of the city's Redevelopment Advisory Committee.
The complaint, filed Dec. 3, alleges that D'Ascoli, the director of governmental affairs for the Pacific Southwest Association of Realtors, has used his column in the Realtors' newsletter to criticize Chula Vista “NIMBYs.” The Luzzaros say D'Ascoli isn't objective regarding residents' concerns.
Chula Vista established the Redevelopment Advisory Committee in July 2006 to hold public hearings on urban infill projects.
D'Ascoli said he was confused by the complaint because he thought he was selected to the committee to represent the Realtors' organization, which has more than 1,000 Chula Vista residents as members.
He said that he has requested clarification on his role from the city attorney.
"The Redevelopment Advisory Committee (RAC) is a community-based advisory
committee and serves as the primary vehicle for public participation process. (in the Redevelopment process)"
We asked the Chula Vista Board of Ethics to investigate whether it is ethical
for an individual to sit on the Redevelopment Advisory Committee (RAC) who:
1. Has published articles stating that voluntarily organized neighborhood
Association of Realtors) and I'm paid to do it, that's my job..they pay
prior to it being presented to the RAC for public review,
supplied this individual with talking points designed to "sell" the project
Board of Ethics ruled that these do not constitute probable cause for an
investigation. (Video of
Board's reasoning) Totally missing the point regarding the use of words
like NIMBY, one Board member felt that although it might be a pejorative term,
it wasn't used at a RAC meeting so therefore was excusable. The RAC member's
comments were written by him in a column he writes for PSAR (page
5). The chair of the Board said there are words much worse that are used in
politics! The point is that the RAC member's words are a reflection of his
inability to offer non-prejudicial judgment. That didn't seem to register
with the BOE.
Only saying what he gets paid to say didn't seem to matter to the BOE either. One member asked how many members he represented in PSAR, and was satisfied with his answer even though the PSAR members had not been polled. Again, what does that have to do with the issue of not listening to public input?
Regarding the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce's interference with the RAC, no problem! He wasn't present when they took their position so somehow he is detached from the Board on which he sits. That the Chambers' Board of Directors took a position (conveniently without his presence) before knowing any real facts, and that he received talking points, was never discussed by the Board of Ethics.
They accepted the fact that although local candidates received money from PSAR's BORPAC, it was not a violation of the RAC Rules because the money came from somewhere else in their state organization!
That he is a person paid by an organization that he feels he must loyally represent (lobbyist?) didn't bother the Board at all.
One member of the Board of Ethics does get good marks. (Video of attempted motions.) He pressed for the deliberations to take place publicly rather than in executive session, and asked for a continuance so the new evidence brought forth at the meeting could be considered. He won the public deliberations but lost in his attempt to continue the proceedings.
It was very disconcerting that the BOE, with the exception of one member, had not bothered to even look at the Rules and Procedures for RAC members. How could they possibly access a violation of ethics without being acquainted with duties?
In conclusion, the Board of Ethics was, to say the least, a big disappointment. They appeared ill-prepared and based on their discussion and questions, were unable to grasp the issues. Either that or the veins of unethical conduct run frighteningly deeper than we thought.
(Editor's note: If you carefully
read the 7 points in the ordinance, it is clear
that it is almost impossible to find that someone violated the code of ethics.
It is as if the ordinance was written to make finding a violation almost
impossible. This has proven in the past to be good protection for people in
public office and quite frustrating for the public. This same night that they
would not consider the Luzarros' request they continued for 90 days making a
decision on the ethics complaints against Councilman Castaneda. Complaints
that have a clear political motivation. Both of them sprung up when the
Councilman foolishly chose to run for mayor against the current mayor.)