City Government
10:59 am
Wed March 20, 2013

Questions About Ethics Board Methodology Following Letter Of Admonition To Taylor

The City of San Antonio's Ethics Review Board has decided it will issue District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor a letter of admonition for not correcting incomplete or inaccurate campaign finance reports on time.

According to City Clerk Leticia Vacek, some entries on her report were duplicated, or incomplete. When Taylor was notified of four discrepancies on two-years' worth of campaign finance reports, she was asked to correct them.

"I think there were maybe three contributions where they were entered twice," Taylor said.

Taylor chalked the mistake up to simple human error.

According to the city's Ethics Review board, Taylor or her staff asked for an extension to fix the mistakes, but missed that deadline as well.

Ethics Review Board member Michael Ariens said the board looked into the city clerk's files and found the work had been done, but Taylor's office failed to send the information in.

Vacek confirmed the work just wasn't saved.

"The reports were corrected and in the system," she said.

Disagreement on a decision

During the ethics review meeting, Ariens moved to issue a letter of notification informing Taylor she was late correcting her forms. Board chair Arthur Downey asked for a second.

After a long pause, Downey continued.

"Somebody second it please," he said.

Members sat in their chairs with stoic faces, appearing not to support sending Taylor a letter.

Finally, member Robert Piatt spoke up.

"Can I have a point of information?" he asked Downey. "Is that all the letter is going to say?"

“It's going to say that there we found that there was a violation of the campaign finance regulation," Downey replied.

"I'll second the motion," said Piatt.

Questions about the Ethics Review Board process

After the vote, Piatt expressed concern that the public perceives the Ethics Review Board as a body that doesn't take inquiries very seriously and only hands out minimal punishment.

Downey appeared to give elected officials and others who come into question the benefit of the doubt and said that unless there is a reason to suspect wrongdoing, he takes those in question at their word.

Ariens said that’s the way he and the board operate, unless there is a reason to be concerned.

"I think our general default proposition is that we should trust the council members to tell us the truth rather than view skeptically the statements that they give us," Aries said.

Downey also said the board has limited resources for investigations. The board said that it checked into this particular matter and resolved it how they felt it should've been handled.