LA Council Members Call for Ethics Commission to Have Greater Independence

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - In an effort to increase accountability in response to the City Hall racism scandal, half of the Los Angeles City Council signed onto a motion Tuesday calling to make the city's Ethics Commission more independent and streamline and expand its enforcement processes.

The council members recommended a number of changes, which would have to be approved by voters because they would require changes to the city charter.

The Ethics Commission was established in 1990, and is responsible for administering city and state laws related to campaign financing, contracts, developers, governmental ethics and lobbying. The five commissioners, who serve staggered five-year terms, are chosen by the mayor, city attorney, controller, city council president and the president pro tempore of the city council -- each of whom make one appointment.

The proposed changes include prohibiting members of the commission from having "any direct and substantial financial interest" in any work taken by the city; establishing a minimum annual budget for the commission; allowing appointing authorities to remove their appointees; and authorizing the commission to place policy recommendations directly in front of voters -- if the council first proposes the recommendations and fails to enact them within 120 days.

Councilman Paul Koretz, one of the motion's presenters, said in a statement that the changes would ensure the Ethics Commission has the tools it needs to hold city officials to the highest ethical standards.

"The scandals at City Hall unfortunately have made the prevailing skeptical view of City Hall seem justified," Koretz said. "The role of an elected leader is not one of entitlement but of privilege, and placing principles over politics and conscience over political power is a requirement of this job."

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