Amid ongoing corruption probes into San Bernardino County government, initiatives introduced to curb costs to taxpayers and promote ethics reform
[SAN BERNARDINO]: The Committee to Reform San Bernardino County Government is a grassroots group whose mission it is to bring about much-needed oversight of elected officials on behalf of the citizens of corruption-ridden San Bernardino County. The county has been plagued with scandals since the 1990s, and numerous county officials have faced state and federal charges. Two initiatives have been written that will allow voters to change the county’s charter so that elected officials cannot gain financial benefits without voter approval and will provide additional “transparency” county officials claim they desire.
The proposed reforms include making members of the Board of Supervisors part time and reducing their pay to reflect the hours of service they provide to the public; and capping campaign contributions. The reforms mirror many of those already in place or being made elsewhere in California’s 58 counties.
The “Elected Officials Pay Reduction Act” will reduce the members of the Board of Supervisors to part time, reduce their salaries that, in some cases, exceed $300,000 a year, and reduce the amount they are allowed to spend on staff and offices. Currently, board secretaries, which are among the lowest paid employees, have salary and benefit packages that are close to or exceed $100,000 per year. Board staffing and salaries have increased far more than the cost of living or the increase in county population during the same period. The new cap will bring the Board of Supervisors more in line with the staffing and office budgets provided to members of the California Legislature.
The “San Bernardino County Elected Officials Ethics Reform Act” will place caps on the amounts that the county’s elected officials can receive from individual donors. It will also eliminate contributions from corporations and unions. Recent corruption cases suggest that some county officials have participated in a “pay-to-play” scheme where those making large campaign contributions have a higher degree of access to those elected officials. This initiative will level the playing field.
This act will also require online reporting of all contributions over $200 within 24 hours so that voters in outlying areas can make informed decisions at the voting booth. Contributions will no longer be allowed to be hidden from public view until after the election.
Additional information can be found at www.ReformSBCounty.com. Once the petitions are approved as to form by the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters, they will be available for download. In the meantime, the petition language is available on the website.
The petition-gathering firm of Arno Political Consultants, one of California’s most respected signature-gathering firms, has been contracted with to collect the signatures. Arno has a proven track record of qualifying initiatives. The firm is currently gathering signatures for several statewide ballot initiatives.
Brian T. Hildreth of the law firm of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP, one of California’s most prestigious political law firms, drafted the initiatives.
What do you think? Will this help the system?————Paul Schrader