Voters cast their ballots at City Hall during an election. (File photo)

Voting Yes on SM is the easiest decision of the year.

The City-sponsored measure will increase enforcement of existing anti-corruption laws and is a direct response to recent problems with the existing rules.

Commonly referred to as the Oaks Initiative, there’s a section of the City Charter that governs ethics for city employees and officials.

The provision is formally the City of Santa Monica Taxpayer Protection Amendment and was passed by voters 16 years ago. Since adoption, the code hasn’t been enforced and in recent years it became obvious additional measures were needed to make the rules efficient.

In 2014, Elizabeth Riel sued City Hall alleging a violation of her First Amendment rights when then-City Manger Rod Gould rescinded a job offer for what was described as “personnel reasons.”

Gould denied he was forced to terminate the job offer due to pressure from the city officials but Councilwoman Pam O’Connor’s actions in the case, including a stream of emails complaining about Riel, were the subject of an independent investigation that concluded O’Connor inappropriately influenced the decision.

After retiring from Santa Monica, Gould took a job in Marin county with a company that had previously done business in Santa Monica. The City Attorney declined to act on a complaint against Gould and ultimately a group of private citizens filed a civil action against Gould over his new job. Gould settled the case citing a lack of resources to withstand a personal lawsuit.

The same report that criticized O’Connor also recommended a set of revisions to the anti-corruption laws that would specifically clarify situations like Gould’s and it’s those recommendations that are largely incorporated into Measure SM.

As currently written, the rules only apply to the person receiving the “personal or campaign advantages” but if adopted, the new rules would also prohibit giving the compensation. For example, Councilmembers are currently prohibited from taking a campaign contribution from an individual who have been awarded a contract by the council and the elected officials could be subject to punishment of they violate the rules. If SM passes, the individual who received the contract would also be subject to penalties if they made a donation.

Measure SM clarifies and expands who is covered by the law. The new rules explicitly state “public officials” include not only elected/appointed officials (such as the council or commissioners) but also department heads or other staff members that have the authority to award contracts.

Also clarified in SM is the laws jurisdiction. It explicitly states the rules apply outside Santa Monica prohibiting those covered by the law from awarding benefits in Santa Monica and later receiving a personal or campaign advantage in another city.

In addition, SM specifies enforcement should be handled by the independent Criminal Division of the City Attorney’s office, or by a special prosecutor, to prevent any potential conflict of interest concerns.

Measure SM provides an exemption for volunteer members of non-profits.

Could SM be even stronger? Sure. It’s certainly possible the rules could be even tighter, but as it stands there’s absolutely no reason to vote no on the Measure.

SM increases the strength of the city’s anti-corruption laws by expanding coverage, clarifying jurisdiction and providing clear enforcement policies. It does so after a lengthy public process and with such universal support, no-one filed any official opposition to the measure.

We strongly encourage a Yes vote on Measure SM.