Support from SJ supervisor to pursue ethical investigations
A challenge to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors’ code of ethics was dismissed Sept. 13 when the board voted 4-1 to keep the current code of ethics policy in place.
The issue was brought to the board by supervisor Tom Patti, the only one who voted against maintaining the code of ethics policy. He is also the subject of a new confidential investigation into undisclosed allegations, including bribes, according to Patti.
Patti is running against U.S. Representative Josh Harder, D-10th district, to represent California’s 9th congressional district in November. Patti said the current code of ethics has led to slanderous accusations against him and political targeting, and that new language should be written that is “immune from political misuse”.
“The ongoing investigations conducted and reports prepared under this fatally flawed process lack credibility,” Patti said. “The reports consist of conjecture and hearsay, not substantial evidence, and (I) was also wrongfully deprived of a reasonable opportunity to speak to witnesses making these claims.”
County attorney J. Mark Myles said the confidential investigation is expected to be discussed at the first board meeting in October — about when ballots will be mailed to voters . Myles also refuted Patti’s claim that he hadn’t had the chance to be interviewed as part of the investigation.
Supervisor Kathy Miller, who will end after the November election, said the only outstanding complaints remaining to the ethics committee are against Patti. She said the “totally inappropriate” timing of Patti’s decision to suspend the ethics committee is “highly suspicious” so close to an election. Miller said she thinks the appropriate time to review the code of ethics would be in January after the newly elected supervisors take office and if the board decides to do so.
“The suspension or termination (of the committee) at this stage can only be seen as a benefit to (Patti),” Miller said. “I think the suspension at this point would be seen by the public as an attempt by this board to favor a sitting supervisor, provide political cover and put their finger on the scale of what should be a tight race in november.”
Catch up:Staff member who filed harassment and retaliation complaint against SJ supervisor Patti resigns
A lawyer for Patti at the meeting told the council none of the ‘evidence’ would hold up in court and scolded supervisor Robert Rickman and council chairman Chuck Wynn – both career law enforcement officials (Wynn retired) – for not knowing better.
“It’s not a court, it’s just the oversight board,” Wynn said, noting that ethics committee activity is an administrative process.
Wynn said Patti’s comments about serving supervisors not being able to speak out for fear of political reprisals were true. Wynn said his approach to public service was “it’s not about me”. He said that when talking to the public and other local elected officials, they didn’t place much importance on the board.
“(They think) this council is dysfunctional. Some used the term “circus”, some used the term “a joke,” Wynn said. “It does not please me to hear these comments because I think we are all working very hard to achieve these positions and doing what we can to improve the quality of life for residents.
Supervisor Miguel Villapudua – who endorsed Patti for Congress – proposed keeping the current code of ethics. Both Rickman and Villapudua sit on the ad hoc ethics committee. Both were politically attacked in public comments on September 13. Villapudua said he believed Patti owed the public an explanation for her behavior and that any changes to the code of ethics would have to wait until the new board was installed in January.
“We are adults, we are paid by the public. The way we treat each other, we should be an example for everyone, especially for children, children and everyone in the public,” Villapudua said. “I think we owe it to the public to see that. We can’t just spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to throw everything under the rug.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen the personal attacks going on,” Rickman said. “When we are here to represent the county, we have to do better.”
No conclusion on complaints from Miller’s former chief of staff
Patti was also the subject of an ethics investigation regarding her behavior towards Camille Zapata, former chief of staff for supervisor Kathy Miller. Zapata resigned from her county position in April after the board refused to accept three argued findings that Patti retaliated against her.
ICYMI:San Joaquin County supervisors do not accept retaliation findings against Tom Patti
Zapata had filed more than 20 harassment and retaliation complaints against Patti. TK’s comprehensive investigation supported 13 claims, 10 of which were referred to the ad hoc ethics committee to assess potential breaches of the Supervisory Board’s Code of Ethics. The conclusions of the ad hoc ethics committee were discussed at the September 13 board meeting. Patti left the room before the board had voted on the ethics committee’s findings.
The committee was unable to reach unanimous conclusions on any of the 10 complaints against Patti. The full investigation report has not been made public.
Two ethics complaints filed by Patti against Miller were also discussed at the meeting. The complaints — one about Miller’s claims that Patti was politicizing a COVID-19 discussion, and the other about a tweet about veto proclamations — were both found not to have risen to the level of a breach of ethics.
Record reporter Ben Irwin covers Stockton and San Joaquin county government. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @B1rwin. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at recordnet.com/subscribenow.