Councilwoman Fergusson skips Dec. 15 ethics course, days after vowing to reacquaint herself with open government law Menlo Park, posted by Bob, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Dec 29, 2010 at 3:40 am
SJ Mercury News 12/29/2010 3am
"Menlo Park councilwoman forgoes Dec. 15 ethics course, days after vowing to reacquaint herself with open government law
When Menlo Park Council Member Kelly Fergusson admitted earlier this month to violating the Brown Act, she promised to take a refresher course "to emphasize my commitment and deepen my understanding" of California's open government law.
At the time, however, Fergusson neglected to mention that such training is state-mandated and that she was more than four years overdue, according to city records. And she passed up a chance to take a class less than a week after making her vow.
Signed into law in 2005, Assembly Bill 1234 requires local legislators to undergo at least two hours of training in "general ethics principles and ethics laws relevant to his or her public service" every two years. It must cover the Brown Act, according to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission.
Fergusson last received training on Dec. 11, 2006, city records show. She is the only member of the council who is out of compliance."
Posted by looking on, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Dec 29, 2010 at 9:20 am
Anyone who thinks Kelly is going to resign doesn't know her at all and is just day dreaming. Look at her statement of resignation wherein she announced she no longer wanted to follow the policy for choosing a Mayor, now that she wasn't the one to be chosen. And then in the PA Daily, saying time to move on; (just forget about this minor incident.)
She doesn't deserve to sit on council and represent anyone in the City any longer. A recall should be mounted --- it should have tremendous support from all view points of the city's voters. (I supported and voted for her twice. My mistake along with many others.)
She might get big financial support from David Bohannon in a recall election, since she is largely responsible for giving away the farm in the deal made with Measure T and the Bohannon project. Of course, Bohannon not needing her any longer, may just throw her into the wind. Then there are the unions, who would support her, since she was the leader in granting the huge pension increase 3 years ago. She has been a disaster.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Dec 29, 2010 at 10:24 am
All of us believe we can be objective and ethical. Our personal standards are not the issue here. As Mr. Carpenter's post above notes, sunshine rules, such as the Brown Act, are in place to assure the public that they are always getting a fair shake in their dealings with their government.
I've provided this example before and I think it illustrates the point concisely. Suppose you find yourself in a legal battle and discover the judge is related to your adversary. This judge assures you that he can be fair and objective and that may actually be the case. And if you win the case, you will probably praise the judge's veracity. But if you should lose, you will almost certainly attribute your loss to the judge's relationship to your adversary and not to the facts supporting your case. Victors do not need an assurance of a fair shake. Losers do.
That is why government must remove conflicts of interest and always maintain transparency - no matter how small or trivial those transgressions may seem to you. That's because you are a winner. But one day you may be the loser and it will be reassuring to know that everything in your deliberation was above board.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Dec 29, 2010 at 11:19 am
AB 1234 Section 53235.
(b) Each local agency official shall receive at least two hours
of training in general ethics principles and ethics laws relevant to
his or her public service every two years.
No penalty is specified in the Act for failure to comply. I would argue that since this is a requirement for holding office that failure to comply could mean automatic forfeiture of office when the two year period expired.
Interestingly, I am actually taking the online ethics course as I write this response (since I have just been appointed to fill a vacancy on the Fire Board - where I previously served as an elected Director for 8 years.)
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:26 pm
Some words of wisdom from the ethics training course for local officials that I just completed:
Public officials are stewards of the public's trust. Consequently, officials' conduct in office affects both the public's trust in their institutions and in their leaders. Conscientious attention to laws and principles of public service ethics will help you as a leader pursue both good means and good ends.
Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once observed that "...all power is a trust; that we are accountable for its exercise; that from the people, and for the people all springs . . ."
Fundamentally, what public officials do is transact the public’s business.
Conducting oneself and transacting the public’s business in a transparent fashion gives the public an opportunity to monitor and participate in the government agency's decisions.
Also, the public trusts a process it can see.
A person who acts with ethical considerations in mind goes beyond the law's minimum requirements.
Ethics is what we ought to do--not just what we have to do.
Also, just because a course of action is legal, doesn't mean that it is ethical.
In short, public service ethics is not only about doing the right thing, but also about the public's confidence that indeed the right thing has been done. The “right thing” in terms of public service ethics is for the public to know that the public’s interests (as opposed to public officials’ narrow personal or political interests) are the sole motivating factor in a public official’s action.
With personal cost ethical dilemmas, the answer is relatively simple, but certainly not easy. The bottom line is that being ethical means doing the right thing regardless of personal costs.
Speaking of situations in which one agrees to do “this for that”, keep in mind that state law also prohibits public officials from trading votes with one another (“if you vote yes on my issue, I will vote yes on yours”).
Although I consider myself well informed on the issues covered in this training I still learned a lot by repeating the training. In fact, I had to repeat some sections of the training to get all of my answers right - except on the Brown Act section where, thankfully, I scored 100% the first time.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Dec 29, 2010 at 3:57 pm
It should be appreciated that in calling for prosecution of Fergusson's admitted and confirmed violation of the Brown Act that the crime involved is a misdemeanor with a MAXIMUM penalty of $1000 and/or six months in jail. Driving without a license is a misdemeanor; certainly violating the Brown Act is a much more serious insult to society than is driving without a license. And it is likely that, once charged, Fergusson and the DA would agree to a plea agreement that simply involved immediate ethics training and court supervised interaction with her colleagues. Is that too high a price to pay for breaking the law?? Is that too high a price to pay for the DA to send a message that he will not ignore the Brown Act??