Sun, Jul

Update: Proposed NC Code of Conduct Gives City Unlimited Power Over NC Board Members


GELFAND’S WORLD - The Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC) is moving along in its quest to update the Code of Conduct for neighborhood council board members. Council participants who are in the know have protested the current draft.

One problem is that it gives pretty much unlimited power to the city government to throw elected board members off boards. In practice, this would be contrary to the right of the voters to choose their own board representatives. It would also contradict the wording in the city's Charter. I invite the BONC members to reread the Charter language.

Let's look at one new element. The city has decided that there is something called Inequitable Conduct that is to be prohibited. Here is the definition, in all its vagueness:

This Policy prohibits inequitable conduct. 

Inequitable Conduct is any inappropriate conduct based on a Protected Category or protected activity. Inequitable Conduct includes any instance of unwelcome conduct directed at one or more persons, that is committed by any Neighborhood Council Board or Committee member, because of the person’s actual or perceived Protected Category(ies) or protected activity(ies). Similarly unwelcome conduct that is sexual in nature may also violate this Policy. 

Inequitable Conduct may be similar in nature to conduct defined as discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment under this Policy, although to be considered Inequitable Conduct, it will be lesser in severity. It may include but is not limited to verbal or behavioral conduct that communicates hostile, derogatory or negative attitudes toward a person or persons because of their protective class or perceived protective class.

Here's what I find unacceptable about this proposed policy:

1) It is so vague that basically anything anyone says or does could be considered inequitable conduct. The authors of this passage will argue that it is supposed to be limited to conduct based on a protected class of people, but this is simply an excuse to go after anyone for almost any reason. It will create an action for the smallest offense -- just read the definition again to see this.

2) If the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners wants to apply a standard like this to neighborhood council board members, how about applying it to yourselves first? When a BONC commissioner told somebody attending the last meeting, "I'm offended," isn't this inequitable conduct under the definition? When a fairly new BONC commissioner spoke with incredible rudeness to me at a recent citywide meeting, wasn't that inequitable conduct? The point here is that BONC commissioners speak and act routinely in a way that would be contrary to the rules that they themselves want to pass against everyone else. The hypocrisy is incredible.

There is more, including a demand that neighborhood council board members essentially sign away their right to litigate these rules. Here is the language:

By signing this document, I acknowledge that I have received a copy of this Code of Conduct and understand that I must abide by it. 

I also understand that if I am found to have violated the Code of Conduct, I may be subject to censure and/or removal by my Neighborhood Council Board, or by action of the Department or the Commission.

I'm fine with attesting that I have received a copy and have read it. I'm not willing to agree that I can't litigate if the city government interprets something I have said in the wrong way. Notice that the signing statement doesn't promise any kind of due process, but just says, "If I am found to have violated the Code of Conduct . . ." I have seen how the grievance process was mishandled by the city government, and I certainly do not trust them to engage in a fair and open process on any alleged violation of the Code of Conduct.

There is a small but real resistance to the new Code developing among experienced board members.

On the national scene

Just remember that the people trying to dictate the actions in the House of Representatives, including Jim Jordan, were part of the attempt to rob the American people of our right to elect our own president. They are still in the House, still in positions of power, and that is no joke.

Powell Flips

Trump advisor Sidney Powell has agreed to plead guilty to several misdemeanor counts in the Georgia case. Specifically, this involves the illegal inspection of voting machines by Trump operatives in one Georgia county. Powell agrees to testify if called upon. Since Powell was a direct witness to Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election, her testimony would give prosecutors a tool to pry into closed door discussions that they allege to have been a conspiracy.

Of course there is lots of other evidence, including the infamous phone call where Trump asks for enough votes to be found that he would win in Georgia.

New cliche alert: We will be reading a lot of comments about the dominoes starting to fall. You will probably also see animated cartoons of dominoes falling. I suspect that hardcore Trump loyalists will find this image enraging.

False Electors

Remember how Republican parties in a number of swing states created their own slates of "electors"?

Some of them showed up at the door to the statehouse and, on national tv, claimed that they were electors. Of course, claiming under penalty of perjury that you are the lawfully chosen electors is likely a crime, and now the bill is coming due for many of them. Some have agreed to a plea deal, but a few will likely face criminal charges.

The point that is now becoming clear is that you can't do whatever a political campaign asks you to do and then pretend that it has magically become legal. It has taken a while (the mills of the gods and the American justice system do grind slowly), but all those crimes including the White House conspiracy, the January 6 Capitol riot, and the fraudulent electors are being charged and prosecuted. This should be a message to those who want to follow a demagogue. Just because one man says that something is OK, that does not mean that it is OK or even legal. I wonder how all those people decided that it was lawful to beat up Capitol police officers?

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)