A Tustin-based painting contractor filed a sworn complaint against 69 Orange County elected officials for actions he says violates state ethics laws. Matthew Delaney’s complaint to the FPPC stated that members of city councils throughout Orange County were routinely voting themselves onto paid commissions.

The dollar amount – in many cases no more than $5,000 – was deemed too inconsequential to prosecute, so the FPPC’s Chief Enforcement Officer issued letters of warning to 40 of the named city officials. However, the letters have served as an impetus for change in some of the affected cities.

For instance, in Irvine, city council members now leave the room when the board is voting whether or not to appoint a member to a paid commission. Other cities have simply asked for an exemption to the law.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Dozens of city officials throughout California have voted to appoint themselves to local boards that pay stipends of up to $5,000 annually, a practice state watchdogs say violates conflict-of-interest laws.

The mayors and council members involved argue that the amounts are so small, and the votes so routine, that they deserve an exemption from those laws. Most of the appointments are made to sanitation, fire and water boards by votes of city councils.

Read the full article here.