Three residents have filed a civil suit against former City Manager Rod Gould alleging his current employment by Management Partners, Inc. is a violation of Santa Monica’s anti-corruption law.
The law, known as the Oak’s initiative, is supposed to prevent public officials from reaping personal gains based on their time working for the City. However, the rule has never been enforced locally due to questions over its scope, implementation and constitutionality.
The three plaintiffs in the current case, Mary Marlow, Elizabeth Van Denburgh and Nancy Coleman are all members of the Santa Monica Transparency Project, an all-volunteer organization that describes itself as concerned about openness and accountability in city government.
According to their complaint, Gould should be prohibited from working for the company because Management Partners was hired to provide several services to Santa Monica under Gould’s tenure. Gould retired in January of 2015 and moved to Marin County. In May he was hired by Management Partners, Inc.
Marlow filed a complaint with the City Attorney’s office over the incident earlier this year but no criminal case was launched.
City Attorney Marsha Moutrie said her office had a conflict of interest investigating those it works for and is therefore unable to move forward with complaint.
A prior alleged Oaks violationrelated to Councilwoman Pam O’Connor was referred to the Los Angeles District Attorney and the California Attorney General’s office. Both declined to take action with the Los Angeles office citing concerns regarding the constitutional validity of the provision and the Attorney General’s office recommending the establishment of a special prosecutor.
The law allows for a civil action in addition to any criminal complaints.
“Our lawsuit focuses on a breakdown in law, ethics and transparency at the highest level of our city government by our top appointed public official, the former City Manager,” said Marlow. “There is a corrosive influence that will stain our city if the City Manager is able to get away with violating the law, as we allege.”
Penalties for violating the law include payment of up to five times compensation received, payment of the plaintiff’s fees and a prohibition on future work for the company.
The lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court in Marin County.