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Ethical Dilemmas In Holding Dual Offices

Friday, Nov. 19, 2010

The Costa Mesa,California city council is ready to appoint a new member to take the seat of a councilmember who was just elected to the local school board.

Not so fast, says Katrina Foley, who is now backing away from her pledge to resign her council seat after her election as a trustee for the Newport Mesa Unified School District.

California law prohibits individuals from holding "incompatible offices." Although there is no laundry list of offices that might be in this incompatible category, the bottom line is that you "cannot be on both sides of the negotiating table."

Foley says the attorney general's opinions are "decades old and dealt with a particular set of factors that are not necessarily present in our city." The opinions, regardless of when they were written, recognize the potential conflicts of interest  and serve the public well.

This is a clear case of trying to serve two masters. The responsibilities that accompany elected office are significant, and require time and effort. To attempt to serve in two offices means one -- or the other-- is bound to suffer. Not only will Foley's governing resources be taxed, it is hard to imagine how she will be able to keep the two roles completely separate.

Ms. Foley should decide which office she wants to hold and leave the other open for appointment.

Tags: California, Costa Mesa

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