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Panel Calls for Rules on Use of City Staff

March 23, 1995|SUSAN STEINBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In an effort to avoid surprises like the disclosure earlier this month that one of its members was using staff time and materials to seek appointment to the California Coastal Commission, the Santa Monica City Council has called for guidelines on its members' use of public resources.

"It is obvious to me that we need to have some written guidelines to define what is appropriate, so staff isn't confused on what they can do," Councilwoman Asha Greenberg said at a meeting Tuesday.

After a brief discussion, the council voted unanimously to have standards drafted that would require formal notification if a member seeks additional appointed office. Council approval would be required to use city staff on any campaigning efforts.

Earlier this month, documents obtained by The Times showed that city staff was working--without the knowledge of some other council members--on behalf of City Councilwoman Judy Abdo's campaign for a Coastal Commission seat.

Three City Hall employees, including the city manager, took a role in writing and sending out letters seeking support for Abdo's Coastal Commission bid, the documents showed. A city-paid lobbyist in Sacramento was also asked to gather information for Abdo's cause.

Abdo is seeking a two-year term on the 12-member commission; the appointment is pending before the state Senate Rules Committee.

Although her actions were not illegal, some City Council members and other critics said earlier this month that the use of city resources was inappropriate without formal notice and approval.

City Manager John Jalili has maintained that the use of city staff was justified because Santa Monica would benefit by having an elected official on the Coastal Commission.

But Greenberg said Tuesday that the decision to use city resources to help a City Council member win a position that could be used to further his or her career should not be left up to the staff alone.

Abdo said she supported setting the guidelines. She said it would be good to have the issue clarified.

The council did not set a date for the standards to be brought back to them for discussion and approval.

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