Santa Monica City Hall's lobby. (Daniel Archuleta daniela@www.smdp.com)

Individuals paid to influence decisions at City Hall will be required to publicly disclose their activities as of Sept. 19.

A unanimous City Council passed new rules regulating lobbying at their Aug. 9 meeting with little discussion and a few very minor modifications.

Lobbyists will be required to provide their name, business and mailing address, email address, phone number, names of owners of the business, description of the business, client name/address/phone number, nature of client’s business, description of governmental decision sought by the lobbyist on the client’s behalf, name of persons employed or retained by the lobbyist to engage in lobbying activities and the date, amount, description of any payment made to, or on behalf of any City official or member of an official’s family.

Any changes to the data must be recorded within 10 days.

According to the staff report, City Hall defines a lobbyist as “an individual who receives economic consideration as the employee, representative or contractor of a person or entity other than the City of Santa Monica for communicating with any official or employee of the City for the purpose of influencing a legislative or administrative action. For purposes of the lobbying registration program, a lobbyist does not include City contractors and those seeking City contracts through bids and proposals.”

Registration opens Sept. 19 and all lobbyists will have to register within 10 days of any lobbying activity or by Oct. 31, whichever is first.

The fees are $40 for initial registration and $25 for amendments and annual renewal.

Councilwoman Sue Himmelrich and Mary Marlow of the Santa Monica Transparency Project both said the Sept. 19 start date missed an opportunity to preregister lobbyists and accelerate the effective implementation of the rules.

“I’d like to see it happen sooner that October 31 and I really anticipated that it would,” said Himmelrich.

Marlow said the city could have been more pro-active in establishing a pre-registration system but said missing the opportunity didn’t detract from her support of the rules.

“I think the ordinance is good and I’m glad to see it go into effect,” she said.

Attorney Paula Larmore spoke on behalf of her firm Harding, Larmore, Kutcher & Kozal LLP. The firm has a long history of working on land use projects in Santa Monica and she asked the council to clarify a few points such as the status of comments made during public meetings and a more detailed list of staff covered by the rules.

According to the ordinance, lobbyists must disclose all contact with “officials” and the definition of “officials” includes staff members that make direct recommendations to the City Council members, appointed commissioners or Directors.

Larmore said the current definitions were lacking and asked for a specific list of staff members and/or job titles covered by the rules.

The council said they were open to providing clarification and directed staff to add additional language to the resolution that restates who is covered by the rules.

However, they said individuals who are engaged in lobbying are paid to know who has influence and if a lobbyist is making contact with staff, it’s because the lobbyist wants to specifically exert influence in a way the rules are expressly designed to cover.

editor@www.smdp.com

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...