County Supervisor Joe Simitian Opposes Open Calendars, Continues Fundraising

Joe Simitian takes exception with the notion that he isn’t transparent. But on Tuesday, the recidivist county supervisor waxed pedantic, crashing the Finance and Government Operations Committee meeting to argue that the county could get sunburned by a new policy of publishing county officials’ calendars. Unlike his supervisor colleagues Ken Yeager and Dave Cortese, who support the idea, Simitian lamented the suddenly fashionable sunshine movement. After having his state Assembly and Senate calendars cloaked the last dozen years, Simitian says he thinks having the people who pay his salary (the public) know how he’s spending his time could hamper his ability to consort with community stakeholders, as well as reveal his political playbook to special interests. Or, could it have something to do with Simitian’s perpetual fundraising? After easily winning last year’s District 5 June primary, Simitian traversed the peninsula to raise funds for his officeholder account, which—unlike candidate campaigns—has no monetary restrictions. In just the last three months of 2012, Simitian took in more than $46,000 and spent $58,064. Some of his more interesting payouts went to: the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee’s United Democratic Campaign ($2,500), which is coordinating with the Cindy Chavez campaign and bankrolling mailers calling Democrat Teresa Alvarado a Republican darling; President and Fellows of Harvard College ($5,000); the “Simitian for County Central Committee 2016” ($7,500); and an assortment of plane tickets and dinner tabs in December. With aspirations to run someday for U.S. Congress, current county rules would allow Simitian to take whatever money is in his officeholder account and apply it to a different campaign committee in the future. That could be why he refused an appointment to the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which restricts its members from raising more than $250 from people who have business with the board.

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

9 Comments

  1. If a third supervisor participates in a committee meeting, that’s a majority of the board and that makes it an unnoticed Board of Supervisors meeting and a Brown Act violation.  In 81 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 156 (1998), the state Attorney General responded to the question by state Sen. Quentin Kopp, May members of the legislative body of a local public agency ask questions or make statements while attending a meeting of a standing committee of the legislative body “as observers”?

    Conclusion: Members of the legislative body of a local public agency may NOT ask questions or make statements while attending a meeting of a standing committee of the legislative body “as observers.”

    Brown Act section 52952.2(c)(6) makes a specific exception for “attendance of a majority of the members of a legislative body at an open and noticed meeting of a standing committee of that body, provided that the members of the legislative body who are not members of the standing committee attend only as observers.”

    So who else was at this meeting?  If anyone from the county counsel’s office was there, they ought to be ashamed (as should Joe).  Pursuant to subdivision 54960.2(a), which became effective on January 1, now anyone (even a resident of a different county) can send a cease-and-desist letter within nine months and the Board will have thirty days to pledge not to violate the Brown Act again in this manner or else be liable for court costs and attorney fees.  Maybe Judy Alexander can take this case after she finishes with public records requests for the Metro.

    • Great insight Vaquero.  Will you be filing the cease & desist letter with the Board pursuant to subdivision 54960.2(a)? 

      It seems you did all the leg work might as well cross the finish line with this one.  Why wait on Ms Alexander or anyone else when you have the information at hand.

  2. I mentioned the nine months and the thirty days, but 54960.2(a) also says that after the legislative body fails to make an unconditional commitment to follow the law, one must file a lawsuit within sixty days “or thereafter be barred from commencing the action.”  So it makes sense to line up an attorney before writing the letter!

    If I were any of the three supervisors at that meeting, I’d acknowledge this mistake in “Governance” and put an unconditional commitment on the next consent agenda to forestall a flurry of such letters.

  3. The law is nonsense and the Attorney General opinion is nonsense.  We have tied up our elected officials so much that they can’t govern.

    The Supervisor is right and all of these ethics laws are costing the taxpayers millions, failing to address any real ethical issues and giving fools the tools to stop government progress.

    Sunshine—really?