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Santa Monica Watchdog Group Sues Former City Manager

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Lookout Staff

August 14, 2015 -- Three Santa Monica Transparency Project members filed a lawsuit this week charging that former City Manager Rod Gould violated a voter-approved local conflict of interest law.

The suit, filed in Superior Court, comes after the City declined to take action on the group’s formal complaint filed in June alleging that Gould violated the 2000 Oaks Initiative when he went to work for a firm for which he had repeatedly approved City contracts.

The Santa Monica City Attorney’s office said that it can neither prosecute nor file a civil suit against a former client. (“Conflict of Interest Probe of Former City Manager Unlikely,” July 8, 2015)

“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.”

In announcing the lawsuit, the group referenced a June 16 letter it had received from City Attorney Marsha Moutrie noting that any member of the public could file a complaint in court.

“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,” the group wrote in a statement.    

The plaintiffs -- Marlow, Elizabeth Van Denburgh and Nancy Coleman -- filed the suit in Marin County, where Gould currently lives.

Gould moved to the San Francisco Bay area after accepting a job earlier this year with Management Partners, Inc., a consulting firm that helps governments, including Santa Monica, improve their performance.

Under the Oaks Initiative, 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 plaintiffs said.

“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,” the group said.  

The plaintiffs are represented by Fred Woocher, Bryce Gee and Beverly Grossman Palmer of the law firm Strumwasser & Woocher, LLP.

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