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Disclosure rule hits parking boards

A unanimous City Council vote requiring volunteers serving on boards advising the city on parking-related issues to file financial disclosures didn’t cause much of a stir in La Jolla.

Joe LaCava, president of La Jolla Community Planning Association, said the process to require financial disclosures for members of parking boards actually began two years ago and is the “the bizarre culmination” of an aborted attempt by the now-defunct La Jolla Parking District Community Advisory Board to work with the city attorney’s office to create a conflict-of-interest code for its members.

“Ultimately it was agreed that it was a valid position that an advisory board member deciding how to spend public money, that there should be some level of disclosure regarding what their economic interests were,” LaCava said. “It’s simply taken them (staff) this long to bring it back to the City Council for action.”

Though Ray Weiss, who represented La Jolla Town Council on then-1st District Councilman Scott Peters parking aboard, had a strong reaction upon hearing of mandatory disclosure requirements.

“My first reaction was negative,” he said. “I was thinking I might not serve.”

Then Weiss paused to reconsider.

“I read what things were required to be disclosed, and it was not as onerous as I’d thought,” he said. “It only required disclosure of things either associated with the parking business or having a business interest in the area that’s being regulated.”

So Weiss had a change of heart.

“I thought that wasn’t so unreasonable, so I’m considering not resigning,” he said.

The council’s action in requiring board volunteers to file economic-interest statements under a new conflict-of-interest code it adopted, was a delayed response to a 2008 directive by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. It ordered the city to require financial disclosures of board volunteers — or face stiff penalties — because state law considers the panels they serve on to be local government agencies.

Sharon Spivak, deputy city attorney, explained: “State law requires people in a position to create policy that gets enacted by the City Council, even though they may be volunteers, to divulge their economic interests.”

She added that “the reason is there is a public policy to shed light and transparency on one’s economic interests to make sure someone’s not voting on something in which they have a direct conflict.”

For example, said Spivak, a parking board member would be barred from making a decision affecting a particular block they owned property on. “The public should know that,” she said.

Spivak added members on boards with conflicts of interest would be required to recuse themselves on that particular vote.

Spivak added there are different levels of financial disclosure provided for under state law.

“State law does not require disclosures so extensive it violates a person’s privacy, but that it captures the appropriate financial disclosures related to their duties,” she said.

The city clerk will soon be sending out letters with instructions on filing obligations to volunteers on the city serving on parking-related boards. “They will have a certain number of days from receipt of the letter to fill them out and send them back to the city clerk,” Spivak said.