Opinion: City of Elk Grove Code of Ethics – Worth The Computer it Was Written On?

By Connie Conley | January 25, 2016 |
Last week I was copied on an email to the Elk Grove City Council whereby the sender included the city of Elk Grove’s Code of Ethics and rated one of the Council members after many of the ethics statements.  In my opinion, it painted not only a disgraceful ethical picture, but an unlawful one.  So I got to thinking:  Is the city of Elk Grove's Code of Ethics worth the paper upon which it was written?
Here is a brief history of the city’s code of ethics which covers the Council, all Boards, Commissions and city staff.  The Elk Grove City Council did not pass the code on its own. It was mandated by the Sacramento County Grand Jury back in 2004. City staff hurried up and held a “public workshop,” and I was charged with writing the draft ethics code by the residents at the meeting – all eight of us! 
Within a month, the code of ethics was passed by the Council as proposed, without one change, and was forwarded to the grand jury as part of  the city’s mandatory response.  [The code on the city’s website today is the exact one submitted]
Does the code of ethics carry any weight with those who govern us? Do we care if our city’s elected/appointed officials lie, cheat or steal? Do we care if they conduct city business in an unethical manner? Do we care if some Council members use their personal email address to conduct city business to avoid the California Public Records Act? Do we care if they strong arm developers for contributions? Do we care if Council members make back door deals, or even front door deals for that matter, while on ski trips or at a powwow over an expensive bottle of red wine? 
Should we care that our elected leaders talk about projects being “good ones and have their vote” before they are officially agendized, public comment received and formally voted on at an open meeting? Making use of special knowledge or information obtained from their position before that knowledge or information is made available to the general public is clearly an ethics violation.
Sadly there is even a board game called “Lie, Cheat & Steal,” which uses “the true political methods of vote buying, libel and under the table deals to advance to office.” Have our city’s officials mastered the game?
Am I being naïve because I believe public trust should be the cornerstone of a healthy city government? Shouldn’t our elected/appointed officials be committed to a philosophy of ethical behavior, honesty and integrity? 
From the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in a resolution on the Right to Democracy: “Democracy holds its leaders accountable to the people. It provides breathing room for a civil society. It opens channels for the free flow of information and ideas and, for the development of diverse and vibrant economic activity.”
The irony here is that I have heard many of our elected/appointed officials tell us from the dais to hold them accountable, that they should be held to a higher level of conduct that is above reproach.  If that is the case, why won’t the Elk Grove City Council pass an ethics complaint process?
It should not be left to the local newspaper or to someone on social media to determine if an elected/appointed official has violated city ethics policy. There should be a process for filing complaints and to determine if a violation has occurred. If violations are found, there should be consequences suitable to any violation for the city’s ethics code to have real meaning.  
However, the Council has repeatedly refused to form an ethics complaint process. The public response from one was, "The residents have the Sacramento Grand Jury, the Attorney General or the CA Fair Political Practices Commission in which to file complaints if they believe I have done something wrong." Yet another public response, “If you don’t like the job I am doing, vote me out of office!” 
Maybe that should be the ethics solution come November 2016!

Copyright © 2016 by Connie Conley. All rights reserved.

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Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, because the city won't put any teeth behind the Code, we the citizens are force to go to the Grand Jury and the FPPC to voice our concerns, making all the issues public knowledge.
If we had an enforcement tool written into the Code them we could keep all of our dirty laundry in house and take care of it internally.

Unfortunately for the cowards, they force the citizens to make public the issues of their alleged missteps.

Anonymous said...

Elk Grove is just a hick town that was paved over by a bunch of developers.

The epitome of a poorly planned suburban armpit; strip centers, fast food joints, no culture, no arts, too much emphasis on youth sports, bland subdivisions, sprawl, congestion, poorly planned transportation infrastructure, no bike trails of note.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 8:24:

You are correct. Unfortunately it also allows for statements to be made complaining about the 100's of complaints being filed. When asked for proof of the 100's of complaints there is nothing but silence. Well, get ready for "100" more.

Anonymous said...

A clean slate in the fall? I doubt you could find enough good people who could survive the existing political machine.

Anonymous said...

Laser Focused on Business!

Elk Grove Thriving!

Poll Results: Would you be okay with a tattoo parlor opening in Elk Grove?

"Oh why the hell not? We have smoke shops, gun shops, bars, why not a tattoo shop?"


Anonymous said...


Maybe I'll open a gun store and indoor shooting range.


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