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Group Seeks New Route to City Attorney's Office

Santa Monicans for Democracy Unveil City Attorney Accountability Project

 

City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie

Initiative to shed light on City Attorney's failings and need for greater democracy in Santa Monica

May 20, 2016, Santa Monica, CA – Leaders of Santa Monicans for Democracy today announced the City Attorney Accountability Project, an initiative that will shed light on the many missteps and failings of appointed Santa Monica City Attorney, Marsha Moutrie. Members of the group will offer public comment at a City Council hearing on Tuesday, May 24 that is slated to review Moutrie's job performance. The hearing is being held in the wake of a recently released report commissioned by the City Council. The document describes in detail the ethical and legal blunders on the part of the City Attorney, as well City Councilmember Pam O'Connor, in regards to the apparently politically motivated firing of a City employee.

"Over the last five of her 22 years in office, Ms. Moutrie has time and again failed the people of Santa Monica and, through both inaction and incompetence, stifled democracy and stalled progress in our City," said Andy Nasatir, Chair of Santa Monicans for Democracy. "A change is long overdue, and we are pleased that the public will finally have an opportunity to hold her accountable."

"The examples of Ms. Moutrie's shortcomings could fill a report of its own, but two recent cases of her incompetence speak the loudest," said Santa Monicans for Democracy Co-Founder, Craig Miller. "As the City Council-commissioned report shows, her advice that unethically firing a government employee would bear no consequences for the City was not only unconscionable, it was extraordinarily costly-not to mention illegal."

Miller also spearheaded an effort beginning in 2012 to overturn Santa Monica's policy of prohibiting noncommercial advertising on Big Blue Bus. After a protracted battle and months-long periods of non-responsiveness and stonewalling by the City Attorney, Miller and his team prevailed earlier this year.

"In this instance, Ms. Moutrie insisted for nearly four years that there were no viable alternatives to the City's misguided policy that banned nonprofit ads on City buses, when such options had long existed in many cities," said Miller. "Only after a comprehensive memo by a prominent private attorney detailing those options was hand-delivered to the City Council did she finally concede that the City could, in fact, run nonprofit ads on the Big Blue Bus without losing all reasonable controls over content. Much like the immoral, politically motivated firing of a City employee, the Big Blue Bus matter demonstrates both a fundamental lack of understanding of the law and a shocking level of non-responsiveness to her superiors and constituents. It is deeply troubling and unfortunate for the people of Santa Monica that our City Attorney lacks such core competencies and integrity."

The City Attorney Accountability Project will soon offer an informational website, as well as ongoing, constituent-driven monitoring of Moutrie's job performance and close scrutiny of the selection of the next City Attorney. "With our continued efforts to inform the public and hold our government accountable by all means at our disposal, we believe that the City Council will select a far more responsive City Attorney whose values align more closely with those of Santa Monica residents," said Nasatir.

"Santa Monicans for Democracy is at present an organization little known by residents, and even less emulated by City Hall. That is something we expect will change as our work continues over the coming months," said Miller.

The group will not be moving forward with a ballot initiative to make the City Attorney position one directly chosen by voters. It thanked the work of Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City and The Transparency Project for their leadership in pressing for the independent investigation that was critical of both Moutrie and Councilmember Pam O'Connor.

 

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