Elected officials in San Jose may soon be able to raise money for their own legal defense fund, if the City Council eventually approves a plan up for review at Wednesday’s Rules and Open Government Committee meeting.
Right now, the city bans legal defense accounts for elective officials. But a 2008 state law updated the Political Reform Act to allow them. It’s up to municipal governments to decide whether to permit them at a local level. Mayor Chuck Reed decided earlier this year at his biennial ethics review meeting that he wants to clarify the law in San Jose.
Contributions to a legal defense account are meant for attorney’s fees and other legal costs related to defending the officeholder or candidate in a criminal, administrative or civil proceeding.
The provision going before the Rules Committee this week would limit the amount an elected official can solicit or receive. It also prevents them from asking for donations unless it’s been reasonably concluded that the city has done its due diligence in investigating the proceeding.
Funds raised for these accounts can’t be used for media or political consultants, mailing, advertising, fines and settlements, or other penalties. The proposed ordinance was written with a proposed $500 contribution limit, similar to the cap imposed on other campaign contributions. This would be far more restrictive than the county’s rules on legal defense funds, which allowed George Shiraakwa Jr. to take $10,000 from developer John Vidovich.
• The City Clerk will recalculate campaign expenditure limits based on the latest Bay Area-specific increase in the Consumer Price Index, a federal measure for the average change in the price of consumer goods and services.
• A neighborhood petition with 346 signatures asks the city to protect wildlife on the western flank of “Dairy Hill,” a slope by Communications Hill Boulevard that Oak Hill Cemetery wants to buy.
“We enjoy the frequent wildlife sightings and want to see the oak reforestation project on the hillside be successful,” nearby resident Scott Guthridge writes.
• The ever-effusive David Wall likens Mayor Reed to Captain Ahab from “Moby Dick” and his embattled pension reforms to the great white whale. “… [C]rime is rampant in the city of San Jose while Mayor Ahab pursues the white whale of pension reform,” Wall writes in his one and only letter to the city this week.
WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wedneday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260