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With Council’s vetting gap in spotlight, Miranda disclosure form due

Newly-appointed city councilman Bill Miranda is sworn in ahead of the meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Whatever may have been lacking in the City Council’s vetting process of newly appointed Council member Bill Miranda – and many residents will say the vetting process lacked plenty – at least some more detailed information about one of Santa Clarita’s newest employees will be known in about a month.

Yes, employee.

Miranda was appointed to the Council on Jan. 24 – and that makes Feb. 23 (30 days after he took office) the deadline for Miranda to file what’s called a Form 700 with the City Clerk’s office, which will then forward the information to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Every elected official and public employee “who makes or influences governmental decisions” is required to file the form, also known as a Statement of Economic Interest, according to the FPPC’s website.

The form’s aim is to make transparent an official’s income, investments, property ownerships and other personal financial interests, to help alert the public of potential conflicts of interest.

Miranda told The Signal on Friday that he’s aware of the Form 700 requirement and is on target to comply.

“It (his filing process) hasn’t started yet, but it will start next week,’’ Miranda said. “It’s pretty simple and straightforward, but I need the guidance of the city, what’s needed and what’s not.’’

Miranda has previously said that his own examination of the client list for Bill Miranda Consulting, his small-business consulting company, showed one potential conflict that he was resolving by shedding that client. He declined to name the client.

Miranda was sworn in to his Council seat this past Tuesday night — becoming what is considered a full-time city employee, with salary ($1,832.57 a month) and benefits, according to city spokeswoman Carrie Lujan.

His swearing-in came a week after he emerged from a field of 50 area residents who applied for a vacancy created when Dante Acosta left to join the state Assembly, with two years left on his Council term.

In a process that numerous residents have criticized as insufficient for a position making key decisions over a $200 million-plus city budget, each applicant filled out a brief form to confirm city residency and voter registration, along with reasons for running and any letters of reference.

Then, the four other sitting Council members – Mayor Cameron Smyth, Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste, Bob Kellar and Marsha McLean, who had collectively chosen to fill the vacancy by appointment rather than call a special election – sifted through the pile of applicants.

Each applicant got three minutes to make his or her case for the job during a special session on Jan. 17. A few were called back for further questions, but the final selection of Miranda shook out with surprising speed once all the applicants had had their say.

That was the vetting process.

“We don’t have a responsibility to do background checks,’’ Weste acknowledged last week. “But you saw all the people who applied, most of them are known quantities.”

Still, the process appeared less thorough than an applicant might undergo for some other city job. According to the “job opportunities” page of the city’s website, “Should you be selected to interview, the process may include one or more of the following: written exam, technical knowledge assessment, writing skill assessment, and/or panel interviews.’’

According to former Councilman TimBen Boydston, this was also a vetting process less thorough than a Council candidate would undergo if he or she sought a seat through the regular election process.

“When you run for office, you are vetted by the public,’’ said Boydston, who went through one appointment process (in 2006) and two Council elections.

“You get asked a lot of questions at forums — they’re vetting you when they do that. The Valley Industry Association will ask you a lot of questions about business, and the newspaper will ask you a different set of questions … that’s a vetting process.

“And you get time, too – people Google you, there is opposition research on you. That is part of the vetting process.’’

In the run-up to the recent Council appointment, all 50 applicants were asked by The Signal to answer a number of questions, with their responses printed in the paper. In addition, The Signal co-sponsored a forum for the applicants at College of the Canyons.

Miranda took part in neither of those processes.


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