To Evade Conflict of Interest Reform, City of Santa Monica Sues Itself
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Jun 15, 2001

CONTACT: Carmen Balber - 310-392-0522 x320

To Evade Conflict of Interest Reform, City of Santa Monica Sues Itself

Proponents Say City Has Conflict of Interest, Seek Independent Defense of Voter Approved Law Banning Conflicts of Interest
The City of Santa Monica’s effort to block a new, voter-approved conflict of interest law has taken a bizarre turn, as city officials authorized the use of taxpayer dollars to sue itself in order to block the measure.

Expressing astonishment that the City of Santa Monica is using taxpayer money to sue itself, Carmen Balber, director of the Oaks Project who sponsored the measure, called the City's action "a conflict of interest against a conflict of interest law. The people of Santa Monica overwhelmingly supported this reform at the polls. It is absurd that the City Council is now using taxpayer dollars to reinstate their right to take kickbacks."

Santa Monica challenged the voter-enacted law, Proposition LL, by suing itself on June 12 with the filing of a lawsuit entitled City of Santa Monica v. Maria Stewart. The measure has been law in Santa Monica for over six months.

In a letter delivered today, citizen advocates further challenged the City for its position as both defendant and plaintiff in the case. "At present...there is no party in this lawsuit who is unswervingly committed to defending the initiative and representing the will of the voters."

Citizen advocates charged the City to provide for an independent defense of the law, with approval of the proponents, in order to fulfill their obligation to defend a voter-approved law.

Representatives of the Oaks Project, proponents of Prop LL, delivered a letter today to the Santa Monica City Council demanding the City fulfill its obligation to the voters of Santa Monica and provide for a vigorous and independent defense of the law. "Only by this action can the City demonstrate that it is actually proceeding in good faith in an attempt to secure a fair judicial resolution of any constitutional questions raised regarding the implementation of Prop LL."

Proposition LL, which qualified for the ballot with the signatures of over 12,000 Santa Monica residents collected by volunteers, was enacted by 59% of the voters on November 7, 2000. The law prevents city officials from accepting campaign contributions, gifts or employment from entities that benefit from the official's decisions (for example, through the award of a city contract or zoning variance).

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