Several councilmembers are asking for a review of city practices based on the Elizabeth Riel case.

The latest development is a request from Councilmembers Gleam Davis, Sue Himmelrich and Tony Vazquez to investigate best practices related to the council-manager form of government.

The trio has requested hiring an outside advisor to review and report on, “the best practices of California charter cities with a council-manager form of government in the wake of resident concerns about the Elizabeth Riel matter and enforcement of the Oaks Initiative.”

According to the staff report, if the request is approved, the process should be conducted in open session.

“The person hired to conduct the review and write the report shall be selected by the City Council in open session and shall have the power to obtain documents upon request and interview staff, elected officials, appointed officials, and third parties as necessary,” reads the report.”

The scope of the request is limited to an analysis of government practices, and as written in the staff report, it is not a request for an investigation into the Riel case.

Davis said the item is an opportunity to learn from the Riel case, not to relive it.

“What we need to do going forward is determine best practices in a city manager form of government as to how council members relate to the staff, and determine what our current practices are and how they can be made better,” Davis said.

Elizabeth Riel was hired as a Communications and Public Affairs officer by the City of Santa Monica, but was fired before her first day of work. Riel sued and the city settled the case.

In his deposition, former city manager Rod Gould said he rescinded the job offer based on Riel’s past political activity, but local activists contend former Mayor Pam O’Connor inappropriately pressured Gould into making the decision.

A complaint has been filed against O’Connor for violating the city charter and an investigation into any criminal charges would reside with the district attorney. The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) publicly called for the city to investigate the issue.

SMCLC’s request has been for an investigation that includes findings of fault and specifically looks at wrongdoing by O’Connor and/or city staff. However, the request before council Tuesday night is limited to a discussion of procedure.

In a statement, SMCLC said an expansive analysis is needed.

“Those who would urge the City to do less, arguing, for example, that the district attorney’s role precludes, limits or delays the City’s own review into the facts are misguided. The DA’s role is limited to determining whether there is a criminal case against Councilmember Pam O’Connor,” the statement said.

“But the City’s review needs to be broader and for different purposes.

“It should not only evaluate whether Ms. O’Connor’s conduct interfered in the City’s hiring/firing decision which Rod Gould testified she did not have the right to do, but also go beyond that to encompass a review of the acts of key city staff. And then based on the evaluation, recommend best practices to correct those deficiencies found in the process.”

The council meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1685 Main St. Council discussion items are held at the very end of the meeting.

editor@www.smdp.com

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *