A proposed code of conduct for the Tracy City Council received its first review Tuesday, with the members generally agreeing, with a few revisions, on standards that could guide the nature of future council discussions.
Tuesday night’s special meeting was a response to a San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury Report from June, “Tracy City Council: Restore the Public Trust,” in which the council as a whole was criticized for “its inability to work together as a collegial legislative body.”
The council reviewed a 26-page, six-chapter document that outlines the council’s role and responsibilities, legal and ethical standards, standard practices for communication with city staff and interaction with other city advisory boards, and how council members should conduct themselves regarding financial matters.
During the hourlong special meeting before the regular council meeting, the council generally accepted the policies in most of the chapters with few recommendations for revision.
“I believe that the document and the spirit of the document really embodies what some of us have been pushing for from the very beginning,” Councilwoman Rhodesia Ransom said.
When they got to Chapter 3, regarding legal and ethical standards, the council members got into a discussion on how to censure any council member — basically, a formal reprimand that becomes an official city record — in the event of an unresolved disagreement.
“My fear, related to an enforcement mechanism for a potential censure, was that the public may infer or believe or have the perception that any majority of the council would be weaponizing the censure process,” Councilman Dan Arriola said. “We as a council owe the public a duty to make sure that we are doing things in a neutral and ethical manner. That’s the whole purpose of this particular document.”
Arriola suggested that a supermajority of four council members — with the council member subject to the censure not voting — could approve a censure.
If the council split on whether to censure, one council member in favor of the censure and another opposed to it would make up two members of an ad hoc committee, with a San Joaquin County Superior Court judge serving as the third member of that committee.
Council members also suggested that the individual council members who called for a censure should pick up the fee that the city would end up paying to hire a judge as an arbitrator on such a committee, which would discourage abuse of the process.
The council did not take a vote on the matter. City Manager Jenny Haruyama and her staff will draw up a final code of conduct for the council to vote on at the Oct. 1 meeting.