SOC it to 'em - Page 3

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ISSUE: Will the city's Sunshine Ordinance finally get some much-needed teeth?

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"It's less important that the occasional willful violation of the Sunshine laws gets punished personally than that the violation gets stopped," Francke said. "And someone saying, 'Harry/Judy, what you did there cost $25, 000' is not a career morale builder."

Craven-Green agrees that the problem to date has been that departments rely on the advice of the City Attorney's Office, and SOTF often disagrees with its positions. "One of the reasons we referred these cases to Ethics was so it would take a neutral look," she explained. "What's been frustrating is that the Ethics Commission has not done that. It's simply sided with the City Attorney's Office."

Last year, following a joint meeting between the Ethics Commission and SOFT to discuss difficulties those bodies have had with one another, Ethics' St. Croix introduced changes in how the agency handles SOTF referrals, including defining when he may simply dismiss a referral and allow some documents from its investigations to be made public.

"We are really working to resolve these difficulties," St. Croix told us. "The core of the conflict has been that when they refer complaints, we investigate. But from their point of view, they've done an investigation, and our response should be to assign penalties."

Grossman is hopeful that SOTF's proposed amendment package will resolve some problems. As he told us, "It substantially reduces Ethics' ability to dismiss cases arbitrarily."