Kevin Johnson and Co. could face ethics test in 2016

Embrace external reform or risk losing party endorsement, says Democratic Party affiliate

Sacramento City Council members who don't embrace true ethics reform may be in trouble next election, according to the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Sacramento County.

Kerri Asbury said the topic will be on the questionnaires the political group uses to evaluate potential candidates for endorsement, and that each council member's position “will be taken into consideration.”

There have been grumblings about the need for an independent city ethics commission for some time now. But it appears near-monthly allegations of elected chicanery—regarding both sexual impropriety and a lack of distinction between public and private emails—compelled the local affiliate of the California Democratic Party to call for an independent commission last week, just two days after a former staff aide filed a sexual harassment claim against Vice Mayor Allen Warren.

Councilman Steve Hansen recently joined the chorus, by asking for a probe into the city's stale sexual harassment policies and calling on Warren and Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby to step down from a “Good Governance” ad hoc committee the mayor formed last year, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Hansen, Warren and Mayor Kevin Johnson, who endured his own sexual harassment claim earlier this year, are all up for reelection next year.

The Sacramento Integrity Project, a nonpartisan political reform group, last week released ethics reform guidelines that specifically call for indefinite retention of digital records, public access to all written or electronic records and for a clear separation of public and private communication via emails and cell phones, among other proposals.

Thus far, the council has pursued softer internal reforms. Johnson's Good Governance committee has come under criticism for being a less-than-sincere attempt at its namesake. For example, the panel meets privately and is not subject to government transparency laws.

What few measures are in place don’t go anywhere, said Asbury, because all the workings are internal.

At the August 6 council meeting, Johnson asked Ashby to take charge during what he called the final stretch of the ad hoc committee, calling ethics reform a “hot topic.” Ironically, Warren had been the committee's chair since it formed in November.