Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne vigorously defended her proposal to have the city fund a Black History Month event hosted by her wife, Ashlei Shyne, as Mayor Lauren Meister suggested it might be a conflict of interest or have the appearance of impropriety.
The proposed event — “Sacred Space,” a wellness-themed Zoom conference featuring meditation and breathing exercises — is set to be hosted by Ashlei Shyne, the event’s creator and a board member of the organization in charge of it. The proposal requests $850 from city coffers to cover the cost of the practitioners plus supplies and a gift for the attendees. The proposal notes that Ashlei Shyne will be volunteering as host without compensation.
The item was moved to the consent calendar and passed early in the evening Tuesday by four of the five councilmembers; Meister abstained from the vote.
At the tail end of the nearly six-hour meeting, Shyne raised her hand to deliver her final comment of the night.
“I just want to really say for the record that one of the values that I hold dear and live by every single day is integrity and ethics,” Shyne said.
“My wife is hosting (the event). She’s not making a single penny from this. She is a volunteer for this organization and from my discussions with our city attorney, there is no conflict of interest. There is no impropriety. There is absolutely no rule that is being broken.”
Meister explained her position.
“I can understand, and I wish that I could have given you a heads-up conversation before this meeting — but obviously with the Brown Act, that’s not possible — I do feel that there is the appearance of impropriety because it is my understanding from the staff report, Ashlei is on the board of that organization,” she said.
“What it means is that there is more access. That’s what it looks like: the access. And to me, that’s the appearance. I just don’t think it’s a great precedent for us to be setting. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to offend you, but I couldn’t in good conscience vote for the item.”
Shyne reiterated her stance.
“(Ashlei) is literally the only Black person on this board, who created this event during a pandemic, and is not benefiting in any way,” she said.
The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9.