BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Anna Dillane, a member of the Los Alamos County Community Development Advisory Board (CDAB), has sent a complaint letter to County Human Resources manager Denise Cassel alleging what she believes to be multiple violations of the Municipal Code Chapter 30-4 by Councilor David Izraelevitz and “certain members of the Los Alamos County Council”. Chapter 30 is titled Personnel and Labor Relations. Section 4 reads as follows:
A public official shall at all times maintain a high standard of conduct.
A public official shall treat government service as a public trust. The public official shall use the powers and resources of public office, employment or service to advance the public interest and not to obtain personal benefits or pursue private interests.
Public officials shall conduct themselves in a manner that justifies the confidence placed in them by the people, at all times maintaining integrity and ethically discharging the high responsibilities of public service.
Full disclosure of real or potential conflicts of interest shall be a guiding principle for determining appropriate conduct. At all times, reasonable efforts shall be made to avoid undue influence and abuse of office in public service.
Under Chapter 30 the complaint shall be filed with the Human Resources Manager who “shall maintain the confidentiality of the complaint and the identity of the complainant, and who shall investigate the matter properly”. The Human Resources Manager may refer the matter to the County Attorney. Upon completion of the investigation, the HR manager or the County Attorney shall report the findings to the County Council.
Dillane announced her intention to file the complaint during Monday evening’s CDAB meeting and then sent the complaint by email to Cassel and the Los Alamos Reporter Tuesday evening.
At Monday’s CDAB meeting, Dillane said she watched the July 28 County Council meeting and had some serious concerns raised for her from that meeting.
“So much so that I have written a complaint that I will be submitting to Human Resources concerning certain councilors’ actions that are affecting my ability to have faith in their ability to advance the public interest and not pursue private interest, and to justify the confidence placed in them by the people – at all times maintaining integrity and ethically discharging the high responsibility of public service,” she said.
Dillane offered to read the entire complaint if anyone would like.
“Otherwise, I just want to say that I believe that this board has been treated badly, particularly Chair (Aaron) Walker,” she said.
She said Walker was “treated extremely disrespectfully” while giving his annual report to Council.
“He was accused of improper behavior and he was accused of using his personal feelings to flavor the actions of this group and I feel it was an actual breach of the code of conduct that councilors are held to,” Dillane said.
She said that complaints under the code of conduct are allowed to be confidential and that she was choosing to waive that and be very public with her concerns.
“My personal stance is I don’t have a lot of say in national politics but local politics, I am not willing to stand by and allow a councilor to abuse his position,” Dillane said.
CDAB Chair Aaron Walker did not acknowledge the comments in any way and moved on with the meeting.
In the complaint letter sent to Cassel, Dillane said one violation of the code was Council’s failure to appoint qualified and willing board members to serve on the board citing a need for more applicants.
“This action was in direct opposition to the procedure used to appoint board members to other boards and left the CDAB without a quorum and therefore unable to do the job it was appointed to do for multiple months,” the letter stated.
Dillane noted that at the July 28 Council meeting, Walker gave a presentation on the activities of CDAB for the past year as well as the work plan moving forward.
“Mr. Walker included in his presentation issues which created hindrance to the board’s ability to meet its goal. One of the hindrances listed was the failure of the Council to appoint qualified and willing applicants thus leaving the board unable to do its work. Councilor Izraelevitz responded that it was common practice to ask for more applicants and denied that any variance had taken place regarding procedures used to fill vacancies on other boards,” Dillane said. “Due to that statement I hereby allege that Councilor Izraelevitz violated the standard of conduct by behaving in a way that fails to justify the confidence placed in him by the people, to maintain integrity and ethically discharge the high responsibility of public service. Councilor Izraelevitz misrepresented Council’s usual procedures for filling board vacancies and argued with Chair Walker about details of his report. For Councilor Izraelevitz to characterize it the way he did certainly seems disingenuous and therefore a violation of the code of conduct/standards.”
Dillane said that in the same Council meeting “certain members of the CDAB were invited and encouraged to address the Council” regarding Walker’s presentation and asked by whom.
“Who invited Denise Derkacs to attend this meeting? Who possibly encouraged her to say the board needed new leadership? As the sentiment echoed Councilor Izraelevitz’s stated criticism of Chair Walker, I allege that he did. This certainly appeared to be a blatant attempt to get an opposing viewpoint from Mr. Walker’s presentation. This procedural variance again violated Section 30-4 of the standard of conduct for the integrity of public officials,” Dillane said. “As Catherine Ozment pointed out during the meeting, this procedural variation was ‘highly unusual’. I believe this procedural variation points to the bias of Councilor Izraelevitz and this unethical behavior undermines my faith in his ability to perform his job according to the standard of conduct that he is held to.”
Denise Derkacs is a Democratic candidate for County Council and a member of the CDAB. Catherine Ozment’s term on the CDAB just ended and she did not seek reappointment. She is the chair of the Democratic Party of Los Alamos. Aaron Walker, the CDAB chair is an Independent candidate for Los Alamos County Council. Walker was reelected as chair Monday evening.
Dillane alleges Councilor Izraelevitz “repeatedly undermined, questioned and attacked Chair Walker”.
“Councilor Izraelevitz accused volunteer chair Walker of being biased and allowing his bias to steer the actions the CDAB. Chair Walker has volunteered hundreds of hours to the work of this board. To insult him publicly for his work is unacceptable. In addition, the CDAB was brought into being due to a very frustrated community that felt that the actions of the Community Development ‘weed police’ were overreaching, inconsistent and harsh,” Dillane said. “These concerns are still widely held by the community. For Councilor Izraelevitz to accuse the CDAB chair of using his position to advance his own position is (in my opinion) the pot calling the kettle black.”
She said additionally this undermines every member of the community that has come forward to complain about the issue and is in direction violation of the County’s standard of conduct.
Dillane said Councilor Izraelevitz’s integrity was even called into question by Councilor Antonio Maggiore who “accused him of being disingenuous with his remarks about the variance from the procedure to keep certain people off the CDAB.
“I believe that actions must be taken to ensure that all Councilors are held to the standard of conduct. Councilor Izraelevitz must be sanctioned and must recuse himself from all future conversations and votes regarding the Community Development Advisory Board as he has shown repeatedly that he has a deep and recurring bias when it comes to this board’s activities. I also believe that Mr. Walker is owed an apology for being treated with so little respect for his hard work and dedication to public service on the CDAB,” she said.
Dillane said she is a newly-appointed member of the CDAB and that Izraelevitz’s alleged actions leave her with little faith.
“As long as his actions and the actions of any Council member who participated in these actions, i.e. the chair who allowed Denise Derkacs to speak after Chair Walker’s report and anyone else who voted to delay the appointment of qualified and willing applicants to the CDAB board go unsanctioned, this community is left with little ‘trust for the integrity of its public officials,” she said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Councilor Izraelevitz had not yet seen the complaint and therefore had no comment to make.
A report on the July 28 Council meeting may be read here