Thursday, July 23, 2009
Candidate Forum Becomes Course on Ethics Code
By Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writer
City Councilor Sally Mayer says she thought she was merely sponsoring a candidate forum.
What she got instead was a political dust-up over ethics late Wednesday.
The dispute centers on a postcard and e-mail message Mayer and her staff sent to residents advising them of a forum to which all three mayoral candidate had been invited Richard Berry, incumbent Martin Chávez and Richard Romero.
Chávez, however, refused to participate after learning city funds had been used to publicize the event, a fact Mayer freely acknowledges. It's a violation of the city's ethics code to use taxpayer funds for a political event, said Pete Dinelli, one of the mayor's top executives.
Dinelli went to the forum but didn't participate. "The mayor didn't feel it would be appropriate to attend the forum," Dinelli said in an interview.
Mayer explained the situation to the audience of about 75 people, many of whom were expecting all three candidates.
"I do not consider this to be an unethical activity," Mayer said, drawing applause.
In an interview, Mayer said a representative of the mayor called late in the afternoon to say he wouldn't attend because an ethics charge was to be filed against the councilor. No such charge was actually filed Wednesday, according to a city clerk's letter released by Mayer.
She said she has held candidate forums in the past, and the notice that was sent for Wednesday's forum is like others she's mailed to residents.
"I am the city councilor, and I respond to what my constituents want. They wanted to hear from the candidates," Mayer said.
Mayer said each councilor gets about $5,000 a year for mailings, which is how she paid for the postcards publicizing the forum. The note invites people to "join City Councilor Sally Mayer" for the event. It doesn't otherwise mention her.
Mayer is up for re-election herself this year. She has represented a chunk of the Northeast Heights, around Uptown, since 2001.
One of her opponents, Mike Cook, was in the audience Wednesday. He said he didn't plan to file an ethics complaint over the issue.