As the first president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, I would like to respond to the Nov. 5 letter from Raquelle de la Rocha, the new president of the commission. De la Rocha correctly stated that upon hearing of her appointment I said that "she was not aligned with any faction; she's got no political debts she's got to pay." Equally important as being independent from political factions in City Hall, however, are the abilities to exercise considered judgment and to develop an effective working relationship with staff.
She states that the Ethics Commission's enforcement power was weakened because of "isolation from participation in joint prosecutions with all other enforcement agencies." With respect to the Fair Political Practices Commission, which she accurately describes as having "severed the ties with our agency," I have no wish to join in any factual disputes about who did what to whom. I do believe that the action of the FPPC in refusing to work with us was unprofessional and irresponsible.
De la Rocha has never asked me for any detailed information about what transpired during the five years of my tenure. Had she undertaken a careful review, she would at least have had the benefit of hearing another account of the dispute. She would also have found out that we have always had excellent relations with the U.S. attorney's office and enjoy a close working relationship with the city attorney's office. In addition, her letter criticized the commission's recent enforcement efforts, ignored the unprecedented fines collected for violations of the campaign contribution limits and demeaned the work of the outstanding staff.
The Ethics Commission has important work to do, not only in the enforcement area, but in education, auditing campaign finances, distributing matching funds, supervising the lobbying and conflicts-of-interest reporting requirements and other tasks important to honest and open city government. It is essential that De la Rocha get to know the excellent staff, display trust and confidence in them and let them do their jobs.
DENNIS E. CURTIS