By Tom Moutes, RLACEI Legislative Director
The crisis of confidence caused by both alleged and proven corruption by some City Councilmembers as well as the shocking audio recording of other Councilmembers has the press and constituents understandably calling for major changes to the City Charter. Suggested changes have included an independent redistricting commission, increasing the size of the City Council, and amending the way proposed developments are considered and approved. Considering these and other big changes to the Charter makes sense given the current environment.
However, the Charter changes should not stop with these high-profile ideas. The changes should also include smaller but important changes that have been stockpiling since the last major changes to the Charter were made more than 20 years ago.
An example of such a change would be this recommendation from a 2013 Management Audit of LACERS conducted on behalf of the City Controller, City Council and Mayor (not LACERS):
It is not a coincidence that this recommendation was made after two perfectly good LACERS Board members, Roberta Conroy and Jerry Bardwell, were dismissed from the Board (their pre-signed letters of resignation were accepted) by then Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
So, what is wrong with the Mayor removing Board members? For most City boards, the Mayor probably should have the authority to dismiss board members without specific cause, but pension systems are different. By law, the primary duty of California public pension board members is to the members of their pension plan – not to the Mayor or anyone else. The California Constitution indicates that, “A retirement board’s duty to its participants and their beneficiaries shall take precedence over any other duty.” This helps protect the pension systems from political influence, especially in a situation like LACERS, where the Mayor appoints a majority – four of the seven – Board members.
It is likely that there are other small but important Charter changes that have been recommended since the last Charter overhaul. So, how should the City proceed to collect these various Charter ideas? How about having OARS compile them? What is OARS? It’s the Office of Administrative and Research Services. Still doesn’t sound familiar? That’s because that name is seldom, if ever, used. It’s what the Office of the City Administrative Officer (CAO) was renamed during the last Charter overhaul. Perhaps the new Charter process can be used to get the CAO’s more appropriate name back and to help protect the pension systems.