Following controversy over a slew of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant social media posts by the mayor, the Yucaipa City Council now has a set of rules in place regarding its members’ conduct with the public, staff, the media and more.
The council asked staff to draft a code of conduct in April following outcry over Mayor Bobby Duncan’s posts to his personal Facebook page.
Monday, Aug. 12, Duncan called the drafting and implementing of the 16-page code “ridiculous.”
“Short of me making a mistake with Facebook and being neutered and understanding my role now that I can’t really exercise my rights as a citizen of this great country, but I get that, I understand, it seemed like an overkill,” he said.
The City Council has survived for 30 years without a code of conduct, he added.
None of the other council members mentioned what Duncan referred to as the “ruckus.”
Councilman Greg Bogh said he was against adopting any code of conduct.
“I think the conduct of elected officials are regulated by the voters,” he said. “If you are displeased with the conduct of your elected official, then vote them out.”
Councilwoman Denise Allen, who had originally proposed the idea of the code, said she thought the document would be useful, especially for newly elected members “to understand their roles and relationships in terms of the public and city staff.”
Calling it a “good guiding document,” she said she would have appreciated a code like this when she was a new council member “instead of just having to learn through trial and error.”
Duncan’s posts were condemned by the director of Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and by several residents who called for his resignation at a council meeting this past spring.
Duncan had quickly removed the many posts and said on Facebook that he strives “to serve all residents of Yucaipa equally and to the best of my ability” and would “be more cautious.”
No members of the public commented on the code Monday.
Per the document’s introduction, the “constant and consistent theme through the Code of Conduct is ‘respect.’… Demonstrating respect for each individual through words and actions is the touchstone that can help guide council members to do the right thing in even the most difficult situations.”
The code urges council members to be respectful in private as well.
“Even private conversations can have a public presence …,” the code reads. “Elected officials are on display — their actions, mannerisms, and language are monitored by people around them that they may not know … . Council members must behave at all times in a manner reflective of the trust placed in them by the public.”
Modeled after a document for the Brea City Council, city manager Ray Casey called the code self-directed and self-enforced by the council.
“Staff doesn’t have a role in enforcing this document at all,” Casey said.
Bogh said while he didn’t think the document was the “end of the world,” he thought a governmental body making a code of conduct for itself was “wrong.”
As for sanctions, the code says “City Council members who intentionally and repeatedly do not follow proper conduct as outlined in this Code of Conduct may be reprimanded or formally censured by the council, lose seniority or committee assignments (both within the city or with intergovernmental agencies) or have official travel restricted.”
Councilman David Avila said much of what is in the code is already in the state Fair Political Practices Commission’s required reading for council members.
“The election’s coming up in 2020, and if my district doesn’t like what I did, then they can certainly vote somebody else in, and I certainly respect that,” Duncan said.
Duncan and Bogh both voted against adopting the code. Allen, Avila and Councilman Dick Riddell voted in favor of it with a minor revision regarding sharing opinions at public, non-council, meetings.
A copy of the code can be found in the agenda packet for the Aug. 12 meeting, which is available at yucaipa.org/government/meeting-agendas.