Three members of the Santa Monica Transparency Project, Mary Marlow, Elizabeth Van Denburgh and Nancy Coleman, have filed a lawsuit against former City Manager Rod Gould. The lawsuit alleges that after Mr. Gould approved a series of contracts between the City and Management Partners, Inc., he then illegally accepted employment with the company in violation of Santa Monica’s anti-corruption law, the Oaks Initiative.
When the Transparency Project brought this conduct, which occurred at the highest level of city government, to the attention of the City, the City did nothing other than to remind us of residents’ right to file a lawsuit to enforce the Oaks Initiative, which we have now done.
“As residents, we can no longer stand by while our city ignores its laws so that those in key public positions can violate them with impunity,” said Mary Marlow, a Plaintiff and Chair of the Transparency Project. “It is a straight forward law—don’t go to work for a company that you have recently awarded public contracts to.”
Oaks was overwhelmingly enacted by voters to ensure that there would not even be the appearance of our public officials looking to their own benefit, such as future employment opportunities, when conducting the people’s business. Laws with similar restrictions can be found in other government bodies throughout the country. Santa Monica’s website prominently makes clear that the City Manager specifically is prohibited by law from engaging in this conduct.
“Our lawsuit focuses on a breakdown in law, ethics and transparency at the highest level of our city government by our top appointed public official, the former City Manager,” said Mary Marlow. “There is a corrosive influence that will stain our city if the City Manager is able to get away with violating the law, as we allege.”
Under the Oaks Initiative, Mr. Gould could be required to pay into the City’s General Fund up to five times the monies he has received from Management Partners, be ordered not to continue to work for them and be responsible to pay plaintiffs’ attorneys fees and costs.
The three Plaintiffs are represented by Fred Woocher, Bryce Gee and Beverly Grossman Palmer of the law firm Strumwasser & Woocher, LLP. The lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court in Marin County, where Mr. Gould now resides.
The Transparency Project, founded in 2010, is an all-volunteer group of Santa Monica residents concerned about openness and accountability in our city government.