The city of Santa Monica would like people to stop lying on official documents.
While existing rules have some penalties for falsifying some documents, the City doesn’t have a blanket prohibition on fraudulent paperwork and the City Council will discuss adopting a broader rule at their Sept. 24 meeting.
“The City relies upon the information it receives in applications, reports, and other documents to make informed decisions,” said the staff report attached to the discussion. “The Municipal Code, however, does not expressly prohibit making false statements to the City. Staff recommends that the City Council pass such an ordinance to protect the reliability of information submitted to the City that can influence the City’s decision-making process.”
City Attorney Lane Dilg said the proposed ordinance grew out of a request from Council to improve the efficacy of laws protecting tenants and affordable housing in Santa Monica.
“Among other things, staff was specifically asked to review the scope of false claims provisions in the Santa Monica Municipal Code,” she said.
According to staff, some permits, such as vendor permits, already contain penalties for lying and some forms are specifically submitted under the penalty of perjury. However, staff are recommending a new rule that punishes false statements with a $1,000 fine, six months in jail or both.
The ordinance contains a definition for falsity.
“The proposed ordinance applies to false, misleading, or fraudulent statements or representations,” said the report. “This means that the ordinance will cover direct lies as well as misleading half-truths, concealments, and tricks.”
An applicant must knowingly include false information in their paperwork and the false statements must be directly relevant to the decision taken by regulators.
“The proposed ordinance that would follow federal law prohibiting false statements to the government. (18 U.S. Code Section 1001). Such an ordinance would prohibit false statements to the City only if they are knowingly made and material, that is, non-trivial and having a natural tendency to influence official City action,” said Dilg.
“If the proposed ordinance is adopted, the City Attorney’s Office would further follow the federal government in limiting enforcement actions to false statements that affect the operation or integrity of the City government – such as false statements made on official City applications or in response to investigations by law enforcement officers.”
The council will meet on Sept. 24 at City Hall, 1685 Main Street. Open session will begin no earlier than 6:30 p.m.