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Supervisors postpone decision on policies for county projects

January 10, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The county Board of Supervisors discussed new potential policies regarding contact with those who have business pending before the board and how it should deal with requests for money from community groups and other public agencies.

Both issues were left to be resolved by the newly elected board by the previous board.

On the issue of contact between supervisors and those with projects pending before the board, District 3 Supervisor Joe Maruca said the potential for being guilty of a misdemeanor for taking the time to visit a project site or for being contacted at home by a project applicant is "reprehensible."

"This is quite a turn from what's been done in the past," he said, adding he would like more time to evaluate the three options submitted by county staff and to explore additional alternatives.

The most restrictive option would prohibit a supervisor from soliciting or receiving so-called evidence outside of a public hearing on any project with a pending application that requires a public hearing; prohibit a supervisor from individually viewing the subject property with a proponent, opponent or other interested party in the application; require the full disclosure of any evidence received outside of the public hearing process in order to allow a response to such evidence; allow a rehearing for the failure to disclose any contact; and would disqualify a supervisor from taking any action on the application should the supervisor take a public position on an application before a public hearing were held.

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There would be a limit on the amount of information a supervisor could receive about a project from county staff without going through the county executive officer.

The knowing and willful violation of such an ordinance under this option would be a misdemeanor.

The second option eliminates the misdemeanor provision but prohibits the viewing of the project property, requires disclosure of any evidence received outside the hearing process, prohibits a supervisor from taking a public position on a project prior to a public hearing and limits contact with county staff. The penalty could be reduced to an infraction if the board desired.

The third option also eliminates the misdemeanor while retaining the potential for an infraction. It would require the disclosure of evidence received outside the hearing process, would prohibit taking a public stance on a project and limit contact with county staff.

The proposed ordinance would be based on one in use in San Diego County, whose ordinance also applies to the planning commission, the building appeals board, the environmental evaluation committee and the planning director.

Supervisors Chairman Tony Tirado agreed more time is needed to study the proposed ordinance, including time to discuss it with local business and trade representatives.

District 2 Supervisor Hank Kuiper agreed.

"I find it restrictive from what I'm accustomed to," he said, adding he was not prepared to take action on the item.

District 4 Supervisor Gary Wyatt said he has concerns with all three options, and questioned staff's motivation for suggesting the ordinance.

Bob Ham, executive director of Imperial County's Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, said the second and third options were closer to what COLAB would like to see.

"I still have some minor concerns with some of these," Ham said.

County staff was directed to develop the potential ordinance further in conjunction with business and trade representatives.

On the issue of donating money to community groups and other public agencies, the board was asked by County Executive Officer Ann Capela to consider developing a policy "process" on when and how to donate money but not necessarily to whom.

She said the policy could include a budget, consideration of the public good derived from the donation and the imposition of reporting requirements on the recipients.

In the end county staff was directed to continue developing the potential policy.

Staff writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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