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The Ethics of Special District Expenditures

Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012
Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is the latest in a group of California special districts to draw press scrutiny for its spending of taxpayer dollars.  An NBC Bay Area news segment reports that members of the Water District Board collected  fees for attending meetings that had, at best, a dubious connection to the business of the district.  Member Patrick Kwok, for example, took fees to attend the city of Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce awards, San Jose State University’s Engineering Banquet Awards, and the Asian Pacific Resources Group Lunar New Year luncheon. 

To Kwok's claim that the charges were reasonable because constituents might approach him at these meetings about Water District issues, Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler responded:

The presumption that when you go out in the public someone will, A) Recognize you are a water board member and B) will have a pressing issue that they want to discuss at a social event, I think it’s actually unlikely.  You are not necessarily paid to show up, you are paid to do your job. 

If the gist of the discussion is not at all about water issues I would question why you would be in attendance.

Tags: government ethics, special districts