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Is Riverside’s ethics code broken? Seven hearings, $57,000 later, some say yes

By in Press Enterprise on July 22, 2017

By Alicia Robinson

About 18 months after Riverside officials rewrote the city’s ethics code, some say a little tweaking could further improve it, while others think the current complaint process is broken.

In the past four months, the ethics board — volunteers appointed by the council to review complaints — has held seven hearings, some of them hours long, which have cost the city an estimated $57,449. So far, none of the complaints has been upheld.

The man who filed every complaint since the code was revised in 2016, Jason Hunter, said the outcome shows “the process is completely biased.”

Riverside resident Jason Hunter says the city’s ethics process is biased and ineffective.

But others say the ethics board needs time to get comfortable with the new system and that it will inevitably need fine tuning.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Deborah Macias, who was part of an ad-hoc committee that wrote the new ethics code and also sits on the ethics board.

Revisions needed?

It’s been a rough and tortuous road for Riverside’s ethics code, which was first written in 2005 as a list of positive aspirations such as treating everyone fairly and making well-informed decisions.

It applies to the city’s elected officials and appointed board and commission members. Several proposals to extend it to three council-appointed officials — the city manager, city attorney and city clerk — were rejected by the council.

Complaints filed under the code were originally screened by the city attorney, who sometimes tossed them without a hearing. Those that proceeded went to a panel of the mayor and two council members, but the criticism of such self-policing led to changes in 2011.

Another major overhaul took place last year, and officials say they’re still working out the bugs.

Hunter, a former Riverside Public Utilities employee who settled a lawsuit in 2015 over his firing […]    

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