Stated in a confidential memo obtained by a California Public Records Act request, Councilwoman Mary Jackson has been accused by other Council Members of leaking information from closed session meetings.
The memo reports that Mayor John Lazar conducted his own investigation of the allegations by other Council Members as to the misconduct by Council Member Mary Jackson.
The issue that the Turlock City Council appears to be specifically addressing is the fact that when new City Manager Roy Wasden was a candidate for the job, the information regarding Wasden applying was leaked and being spread around the City of Modesto.
The Mayor’s confidential memo states that after meetings and discussions with those involved with the allegations, “I find there to be no legitimacy to the contention that the Council Member leaked information as to the identity of the candidates for City Manager.”
The memo regarding Councilwoman Jackson also states that incoming City Manager Roy Wasden told Mayor Lazar he himself had shared information with Modesto City Management staff as to his intention to seek employment outside Modesto.
Wasden’s reference in the memo does not specifically say that he was seeking the Turlock City Manager job.
The memo concludes with an acknowledgment that Councilwoman Jackson supports the Council Code of Conduct and will adhere to its precepts.
Mayor Lazar says in the memo “It is her wish, as it is mine, that we can put this matter behind us and address policy matters important to the citizens of Turlock.”
It has been reported that the Turlock City Council will have a discussion at the June 23rd Council Meeting on whether or not to have Councilwoman Mary Jackson investigated.
This issue and confidential memo by the Mayor surfaced out of closed session meetings to the public meetings when Mayor John Lazar requested a June 9, 2009 Council Meeting Agenda item to hold a discussion on “Closed Session” meetings convened by City Council.
Regarding the issue of leaked information and in the discussion at that June 9th Council Meeting, Vice Mayor Ted Howze said “I believe that we’ve had a very clear violation of the Code of Conduct.”
Mayor Lazar said “I don’t think we have any reason to continue or begin a new witch hunt,”
Howze stated that if the alleged violation of the Elected Officials Code of Conduct did occur, “it would very clearly rise to the level of criminal conduct.”
The concerns of leaked closed session information deals with the City of Turlock’s ability to conduct the public’s business, utilize their confidentiality when speaking with the City Attorney, and uphold the Elected Officials Code of Conduct.
According to the “Sanction” section of the Code of Conduct, the agendized June 23, 2009 Council Meeting discussion whether or not to investigate Councilwoman Jackson would be the result of the Mayor not taking the appropriate action, to ask the City Manager and/or the City Attorney to investigate the allegations and report the findings to the Mayor.
City Attorney Phaedra Norton read the “Sanction” part of the Code of Conduct at the last Council Meeting as:
• Councilmembers’ Behavior and Conduct
City Councilmembers who intentionally and repeatedly do not follow proper conduct may be reprimanded or formally censured by the Council, lose seniority or committee assignments (both within the City of Turlock or with inter-governmental agencies) or have official travel restricted. Serious infractions of the Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct could lead to other sanctions as deemed appropriate by Council.
Councilmembers should point out to the offending Councilmember infractions of the Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct. If the offenses continue, then the matter should be referred to the Mayor in private. If the Mayor is the individual whose actions are being challenged, then the matter should be referred to the Vice Mayor.
It is the responsibility of the Mayor to initiate action if a Councilmember’s behavior may warrant sanction. If the Mayor takes no action, the alleged violation(s) can be brought up with the full Council in a public meeting.
If violation of the Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct is outside of the observed behaviors by the Mayor or Councilmembers, the alleged violation should be referred to the Mayor. The Mayor should ask the City Manager and/or the City Attorney to investigate the allegation and report the findings to the Mayor. It is the Mayor’s responsibility to take the next appropriate action. These actions can include, but are not limited to: discussion and counseling with the individual, recommending sanction to the full Council to consider in a public meeting, and forming a Council ad hoc subcommittee to review the allegation, the investigation and findings, as well as to recommend sanction options for Council consideration. Videotaping of the complaint hearing should be used for a Council ad hoc subcommittee.