Resident urges City to establish ethical guidelines
This afternoon, local resident Bruce McFarland stood outside of City Hall and called on the city of Santa Clarita to establish a code of ethics.
This comes after two emails sent by city staff that have caused a lack of faith in city employees from some members of the public. Both emails revolve around the Henry Mayo Campus Expansion issue.
The first email was written by Senior Planner Fred Folstad. In the email, sent to Planning Manager Lisa Hardy, Folstad wrote “July 11th is the CC meeting, Marsha is usually absent from this one. And if Bob doesn’t vote, then all they will need is two votes.” Opponents accused the employees of trying to ease the Henry Mayo Expansion through the council process. The City’s explanation for the incident was that the city planner's words were actually meant to ward off scheduling the meeting on a day when council members would be absent.
The second, and more recent email, was a correspondence between resident Bill Reynolds and Mayor Marsha McLean.
In that, Reynolds had written Mayor McLean asking for her to throw out the Henry Mayo expansion. Reynolds then received a reply to his email from Mayor McLean’s email address. The reply stated that several conclusions have been made. As written, the conclusions include:
The proposed expansion is consistent with the City’s current zoning and general plan.
The expansion is consistent with mixed use corridor established along McBean Parkway.
One of the two problem intersections will be corrected by another project currently before the City Planning Commission
The City staff has worked with the applicant to require architectural enhancements and landscaping buffering that will minimize visual impacts.
Hospitals do not get built without medical office buildings.
The City Council must determine what is the appropriate amount of medical office space that must be approved in order to ensure that additional hospital facilities get built.
Since the City Council is still weighing the Henry Mayo issue, some feel that the email claiming that conclusions have already been made was out of line.
As it turns out, Mayor McLean didn’t write the response email. On July 27th, City Manager Ken Pulskamp wrote to Reynolds and explained that the email was written by City staff, and was accidentally sent out from the Mayor’s email.
UPDATE: The City of Santa Clarita had released the name of who wrote the email , along with an explanation of how the mistake happened. City Spokesperson Gail Ortiz explained that the City Council receives hundreds of emails per month. City Manager Ken Pulskamp has a policy that all emails are responded to within one week. So at times, City staff is asked to help research and write email responses. Then, the response goes through Ken Pulskamp for approval, and then back to the Councilmember or City official for further editing.
In this case, Ortiz says, Community Development Director Paul Brotzman wrote a draft of the response, then sent it to Ken Pulskamp for approval. When Pulskamp approved it, it was supposed to go back to Mayor McLean, however a mix up sent it back to Reynolds as the official reply.
The accidental email was enough to stir up more calls from Reynolds and McFarland for a City code of ethics. They say that this email was just another example of why ethical guidelines are needed.
“After getting the message from Ken, I thought ‘they’re completely out of control’,” Reynolds said.
Mayor Marsha McLean issued a statement this afternoon saying “The issues raised today deal with the hospital project, which is now before the City Council. For the last two years, this issue has been discussed in public meetings, both in front of the City’s planning commission and at the City Council. It will continue to be dealt with in public meetings, with the next one scheduled for August 28, 2007, at the regularly scheduled city council meeting at 6:00 p.m. in City Council chambers.”
She continued; “Regarding the email sent out by the city staff from the Mayor in July, the Mayor always replies personally to her emails, however when there is a subject that generates a great deal of emails, it is not uncommon for staff to prepare email responses on behalf of elected officials. This one inadvertently was sent out without prior approval from the Mayor. When the error was discovered, a subsequent email was sent out immediately from the city manager to the email recipients, letting them know that the Mayor had not seen the email prior to it being sent.”
Sharon Bronson contributed to his article.