New city commissioners will have to pass background checks

Councilmember John Erickson and Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne authored an item on Monday’s agenda that added restrictions on members of the public who are serving or want to serve on the city’s nine Commissions. 

City commissioners — each selected, vetted and appointed by one of the five city councilmembers — wield significant influence and hold crucial responsibilities, including reviewing policies, hearing appeals, and making recommendations to City Council. The positions require many hours of work and are unpaid.

The proposal would add a background check to all appointed officials. The intention, as the agenda item reads, is to “ensure applicants are able to responsibly and appropriately represent the City of West Hollywood in their capacity as appointed officials and have not been convicted of a violent or serious crime that is in opposition to the City’s core values.”

The city currently performs background checks on employees, and the proposed background checks for appointed officials would be handled in a similar way.

An applicant would be disqualified if they have been convicted of a Part 1 crime (including murder, sex offenses, robbery and aggravated assault) within the past 10 years. The background checks would not apply to potential members of advisory boards.

The proposal also sets the stage for a more formal interview process, with possible input from the City Clerk and/or a special subcommittee, and limits the time a person could serve on a commission  to a maximum of eight years.

Councilmember Lindsey Horvath announced quickly she would not vote for the proposal.

Mayor Lauren Meister approved of the term limits, but believed a more detailed application was needed in order to produce more dedicated applicants. 

John D’Amico advocated for an orientation session to be offered to all new commissioners, but opposed the idea of mandatory background checks on potential appointees.

“If there are people you’ve appointed you want to know more about, you should do that,” he told Shyne. “I just don’t want to be surveilling the people in our city.”

She disputed D’Amico’s assertion that commissioners were serving purely as volunteers.

“These are not volunteers, they’re city officials,” she said. “Their decisions make an enormous difference. They’re held to a higher standard. It’s important for us not to be embarrassed later if we find out something we would have wanted to know.”

Meister motioned for a more detailed application, a one- to two-hour orientation, an eight-year term limit, a background check for potential commissioners, and a request for staff to recommend more criteria for applicants to the Planning Commission and Historic Preservation.

The motion passed 3-2, with D’Amico and Horvath voting against it.

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Rich Scott
Rich Scott
1 month ago

Let’s get Ed Buck on a commission as soon as he’s out of prison. He’s got valuable judgment that we can benefit from.

Oh No!
Oh No!
1 month ago
Reply to  Rich Scott

Several of his best pals were on the PC.

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
1 month ago

This council must hate Gascon.

TomSmart
TomSmart
1 month ago

Yet again, you have selective approval of comments. Why don’t you have a policy and stick to it???

Observer
Observer
1 month ago

As far as I know, Commission and Advisory Board members are financially compensated, albeit not much.

Public Service
Public Service
1 month ago
Reply to  Observer

Public Service ordinarily does not require compensation, that is the whole point of service.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago

Did anyone do a background check on Erickson and Shyne before they voted for them? Wish they had, would have saved this city a lot of heartburn.

Public Service
Public Service
1 month ago
Reply to  JF1

It would first be helpful if CM Shyne would candidly clear the air about her true heritage and assertions that she is part of the black community. Although her partner is black, traditionally people from Persia/Iran have historically been known as Caucasian. Secondly, applicants to the HPC and PC should exhibit authentic instances in their resume attesting to their qualifications, skills, knowledge necessary for deliberating city wide issues affecting all. Many highly qualified people living in West Hollywood have substantial resumes and interest but have been discouraged and rebuffed by the often juvenile behavior and lack of substance by entrenched… Read more »

Randy
Randy
1 month ago
Reply to  Public Service

When did she assert that she is black? I’ve only heard her refer to herself as Iranian.

Public Service
Public Service
1 month ago
Reply to  Randy

Sepi Shyne has referred to herself as a “woman of color”and may as late have done so during her appointment as Mayor Pro Tem and also seems to have an evolution of names.

Randy
Randy
1 month ago
Reply to  Public Service

I think you are overreacting here.

The majority of Iranians do identify themselves as white, but 20% refer to themselves as a person of color (black). So Sepi is not alone, and she’s entitled to use that designation, if she wants.

What is your point, anyways? So you are in the 80% that think she should identify as white. You don’t have to push your opinion on her, nor criticize her for this.

She’s a racial minority.

https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-census-middle-east-north-africa-race/

Public Service
Public Service
1 month ago
Reply to  Randy

Thanks for the link. Personally have no opinion on what SEPI does only that she and others be authentic. Have always considered interaction with folks of other cultures to be highly interesting expanding the fabric of the world and appreciating their customs and values. That extends to colleagues worldwide obtaining insight not their culture and political issues. It simply interests me and don’t believe folks should necessarily identify as a racial minority…..just be the best representation of the person one is. The way the government keeps track is another story. Perhaps just signify their heritage. Everyone should be proud. We… Read more »

Public Service
Public Service
1 month ago
Reply to  Public Service

……that should have said ; “obtaining insight into their culture and political issues”

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago
Reply to  JF1

LOL. So true.

Randy
Randy
1 month ago
Reply to  JF1

Maybe. They do background checks on all city employees. And I believe the Councilmembers are considered employees, as they are paid a salary and receive benefits. This policy makes total sense to me.

TomSmart
TomSmart
1 month ago

So if they’ve murdered 11 years ago, that’s fine?

West
West
1 month ago

If these bodies operated as they should, they would encourage participation among the people directly impacted, many who might have criminal histories. It’s hard to tell how much of this thrust is to optimize our boards and foster leadership, or just more gatekeeping of influence and protecting political cliques..

Tom
Tom
1 month ago

Do they require background checks to run for Council?

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

How dare these so-called progressives suggest that this regressive proposal squares with West Hollywood’s values. I am a committed liberal with a strong belief in the goal of rehabilitation in the criminal justice system. This reckless abuse would force a scarlet letter on people who have paid their debt to society. This is an affront to human decency. More forward thinking communities, like San Francisco, have sensible second-chance ordinances that prohibit probes such as this. Shame on Shyne and Erickson (yet again!).

Public Service
Public Service
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

Apparently some of the folks mentioned have not acknowledged or repaid their debt to society. This should not be viewed as a scarlet letter but a blot on one’s character and continuing resume. Second chances are often demonstrated in a different manner

Michael Grace
Michael Grace
1 month ago

Congratulations to Sepi Shyne and John Erickson. It’s about time for background checks. My initial interest in West Hollywood politics was regarding 8150 Sunset. In researching commissioners in general, we found a former convicted child molester, a lawyer who had served time in a Florida prison, then as I recall a man using a pseudonym and he was wanted for felonies. He was immediately removed as a commissioner when this was exposed by Wehoville. Another commissioner, working for a stage assembly man, had tax liens. There were also other commissioners who worked for other government officials, California and LA, who… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Michael Grace
Manny
Manny
1 month ago

So should scooter riders.

Public Service
Public Service
1 month ago
Reply to  Manny

A Mental Stability test would also be a good thing.

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