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Jackson investigation called off

Carnegie funding to be included in RDA budget

POSTED June 27, 2009 5:08 p.m.
A proposed formal investigation into Councilwoman Mary Jackson’s alleged leak of Roy Wasden’s candidacy for city manager will not occur, following a City Council commitment late Tuesday evening to, “uphold the utmost level of confidentiality and to unanimously call for swift investigations of any future leaks, should they occur.”
According to City Attorney Phaedra Norton, the request to initiate a formal investigation into Jackson’s alleged transgression — leaking closed session, privileged information of the three final candidates for Turlock city manager – was placed on Tuesday’s agenda at the request of a majority of councilmembers.
Councilman Ted Howze was the most vocal in calling for the formal investigation in the days leading up to Tuesday’s meeting, stating that he “believe(d) a proper investigation (was) necessary to ensure unwarranted accusations are not levied against a councilmember and necessary to allow this council to move forward with future city business in a professional manner.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, however, Howze proposed an alternative that he believed would allow council to proceed with business while maintaining a required level of closed session meeting confidentiality.
“Asking to agendize a discussion of investigating confidential information leaks is not a decision taken lightly by any member of this body,” Howze said. “… With that said, several attempts to solve this issue behind closed doors has failed and we are still left with the dilemma of finding a way to put a stop to the recent string of confidential information leaks from the Council’s closed sessions.”
Howze offered two options for council consideration, to either pledge to uphold confidentiality in all future closed session circumstances and promptly investigate any future transgressions or to move forward with the agendized motion of launching an investigation of the leak.
“I like option one,” said Councilwoman Amy Bublak. “I think that’s a great way to start.”
All members of council agreed to accept the first option. Jackson indicated that she supported the pledge as it would save the city money, and also said she believed that the councilmembers had already made a similar pledge upon taking the Oath of Office in December 2008.
The alleged leak first came to light at the June 9 Turlock City Council meeting, during which an agenda item called for discussion on the confidentiality of matters addressed within closed session meetings. A formal investigation was discussed at that time, but debate was tabled at the advisement of Norton as such an action was not on the agenda.
While Jackson was not identified as the source of the leak on that date, a confidential memo requested by the Journal and penned by Mayor John Lazar revealed Jackson’s name in relation to the leak. The memo stated that Lazar conducted a private investigation and found ”there to be no legitimacy to the contention that the Council Member (Jackson) leaked information as to the identity of the candidates for city manager.”
However, the City of Turlock Code of Conduct for Elected Officials calls for such investigations to be performed by the city manager and / or city attorney, and does not grant the authority for the mayor to perform such actions.
Applause broke out in the standing room only audience when the council elected to put the formal investigation behind them and focus on the pressing issues facing the City of Turlock.
“I commend Councilmember Howze on making his proposal tonight,” Lazar said. “It was very timely, and, as Councilmember (Kurt) Spycher said, I look forward to pressing the reset button and working constructively with council.”
In other council news, the proposed $15 increase in all parking citation fines was approved, while an initiative to adopt a Planned Development governing fence construction standards in an east Turlock neighborhood died for lack of a motion. Additionally, the council revised the Annual Action Plan to include funding for a Turlock Fire Department sponsored car seat safety program by reducing funding levels for nine other local nonprofits.
As of the Journal’s deadline, the council, acting as the Turlock Redevelopment Agency, had yet to adopt the Fiscal Year 2009-2010 Redevelopment Agency budget. However, the agencymembers agreed to fund the reconstruction of the Carnegie Arts Center despite concerns over operating costs and a workable business plan for the building.
“Read my lips,” Howze said. “I’ll vote for (the Carnegie) at $5.28 million. That’s only one hurdle.
“I will vote to build this project as soon as a group steps forward who wants to assume the burden of operation and maintenance,” Howze continued. “… We can’t afford to operate a city owned shoeshine stand outside, let alone any other business.”
Full coverage of the RDA budget and the remainder of the Turlock City Council meeting will be available in the Saturday issue of the Journal.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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