The Turlock City Council chose not to investigate a potential leak from one of their own on Tuesday night, but rather made a pledge that none of them would leak information again and that future incidents would be promptly investigated.
The possible investigation was discussed at the last Council Meeting but was cut short by City Attorney Phaedra Norton since it was not on the agenda.
Despite media and a confidential memo prepared by Mayor Lazar, the Turlock City Council never mentioned an investigation on anyone specifically.
Mayor John Lazar and Vice Mayor Ted Howze were the major voices in the previous discussion. Both had extremely different points of views.
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.”
After having a couple weeks to think about it, a change of tone was lead by Vice Mayor Howze.
Vice Mayor Howze had a statement prepared that read:
“Asking to agendize a discussion of investigating confidential information of leaks is not a decision taken lightly by any member of this body. Nobody wants to initiate an investigation of their colleagues or themselves. Nobody wants to embroil our new city manager in an investigation of which he may become a witness and nobody wants to ask our city attorney to investigate her bosses. With that said, several attempts to solve this issue behind closed doors has failed and we’re still left with the dilemma of finding a way to put a stop to the recent string of confidential information leaks from this Council’s closed sessions. This must be considered a matter of urgency in order for this Council to effectively do the public’s business in an efficient and professional manner. The public relies on this Council to confidentially communicate with legal counsel, conduct various negotiations, and hire management employees on the city’s behalf without compromising our position in advance.
I really think we have two options here to consider.
First, that each member of this Council pledge to uphold the utmost confidentiality in all of our future circumstances which require confidentiality, and pledge that this body will unanimously call for a prompt investigation of any future confidential information leaks should they occur.
I think All of us are willing to look the public in the eyes here tonight and commit to this pledge in order that we can effectively do the public’s business in an efficient and professional manner, I will personally move to take no action on the agendized item here tonight.
If not, our second option would be to move forward with the agendized motion and initiate an investigation of the latest leak.
The decision really rests with this Council. I personally prefer option one myself, and am willing to pledge to maintain confidentiality and to promptly investigate any future leaks should they occur. I hope the rest of this Council would do the same, as I really don’t think any of us want to initiate an investigation of this entire body.”
Ted Howze said “In essence, let’s put the past behind us.”
Councilwoman Amy Bublak was quick to agree and was the first to say “I like option one.”
“I think this is a beautiful opportunity to hit the reset button… I like option one,” said Councilman Kurt Spycher. “I’m more than happy to make the pledge to this Council as a whole and go forward.”
Councilwoman Mary Jackson had concerns that an investigation may lead to hiring an outside source and said, “…It would also cost us money, more money we don’t actually have to spend. We just laid 23 people off two weeks ago. So I too agree with number one. I believe we all took that oath when we took our Oath of Office when we were elected.”
“I think it is wise for us to move forward,” said Mayor Lazar. “I take you up on your offer Mr. Howze.”
Mayor Lazar added, “I also want to apologize to Ms. Jackson because it wasn’t my intent to see that the confidential memo was provided to the Modesto Bee. I understand it was my own fault because I mentioned it in a public meeting, and it revoked open meeting rules for the Bee and media to have access to it. Again, it wasn’t my intent, I apologize to the Council for doing that.”
No action was necessary by Council and the issue was put in the past.
The people in attendance clapped loud while applauding the Council in its honorable decision.