Independent governance reform group calls for a stronger Ethics Commission

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Independent governance reform group calls for a stronger Ethics Commission

LA Politics, Homepage News

Caroline Petrow-Cohen

Dec. 14, 2023

After three years marked by scandals at City Hall, an independent government reform group is recommending a larger and more powerful Los Angeles Ethics Commission to oversee city government.

The newly designed Ethics Commission would have seven members instead of five and would have the authority to approve the City Council’s ethics legislation. They could also place proposed policy changes directly on the ballot with a supermajority.

The renewal of the committees is part of a larger set of recommendations from the Los Angeles Governance Reform Project, a diverse group of scholars

who has that

has spent the past year developing unbiased reform proposals.

She The group

also recommended increasing the size of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education from seven to 11 members, a move that 71% of voters said they support in a survey by the reform group.

A newly created independent redistricting commission would redraw school board district lines.

“The city of Los Angeles is at a pivotal moment in its history,” said the co-chair of the Los Angeles Governance Reform Project

Scary Marie

Hancock. Our final recommendations are intended to address long-standing issues and usher in a new era of transparent, accountable and community-driven municipal governance.”

The group released its report Thursday, which includes several recommendations announced over the summer related to independent redistricting and increasing the size of the City Council from 15 to 25 members.

The new proposed changes would significantly expand the Ethics Commission’s reach and influence on city policy. Currently, the committee can only make recommendations to the city council.

The proposal follows several scandals involving current and former city council members.

Once-prominent Los Angeles politician and former councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was convicted this year on federal corruption charges for taking bribes from a USC dean in exchange for directing public funding to the university while he was a member of the LA County Board of Supervisors. He was sentenced to 42 months in prison in August.

Former council members Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander were both charged in a sweeping federal investigation into City Hall corruption that gained public attention in 2018 with the raid on Huizar’s home and office.

Huizar pleaded guilty in January to extortion and tax evasion. Englander was sentenced to 14 months in prison in 2021 after pleading guilty to planning to falsify material facts, a misdemeanor.

Current Councilmember Curren Price was charged with embezzlement and perjury in June and is fighting the charges. And City Hall was rocked in October 2022 by a leaked audio recording of city council members making racist comments and discussing how to benefit from the redistricting process.

Eighty percent of voters surveyed by the Los Angeles Governance Reform Project said they believed the level of corruption in the City Council should raise concerns and is worse than in most government agencies. Ninety percent said they believe ethics rules should be reformed and strengthened.

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission was created by voters in 1990 to help maintain public trust, according to its website. The commission administers city and state laws related to campaign finance, lobbying and government ethics.

The five commissioners are appointed by the mayor, the city attorney, the comptroller, the council president and the council president pro tempore. The two additional members recommended by the reform group would be appointed by the mayor and the president of the city council, respectively.

The reform group also proposes giving the commission the power and resources to hire independent legal advice.

The most important government reform requires an amendment to the city charter, which must be approved by a public vote. It is expected that the city council will put a reform proposal to the vote in 2024.

Council President Paul Krekorian, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on City Government Reform, has said the committee will consider the independent reform group’s findings before making policy recommendations.

The group recommends that a governance reform package be included on the November ballot.


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