Morro Bay mayor recuses himself, then lobbies council

March 31, 2016
Monica and Jamie Irons

Monica and Jamie Irons

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons removed himself from a vote on housing regulations last week to avoid a financial conflict of interest. However, Irons then lobbied the council both orally and in writing to vote in a manner that would benefit him financially.

Following Irons’ lobbying efforts, the remaining council members voted 3-1 to halt a vacation rental ban that Irons opposed. The sequence prompted a Morro Bay citizen to submit a complaint to the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging Irons breached state conflict of interest laws.

California laws on conflicts of interest can be confusing. For example, while the law allows a public official who has a financial interest in an item to speak during public comment after he recuses himself, the law also prohibits the official from using his position to influence the government decision.

In a complaint to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, Morro Bay resident Linda Stedjee says Irons used his position to influence the council decision on the vacation rental ban. Irons told CalCoastNews he did not do that, and that he was speaking based on personal experience, not personal interest.

Last week, the Morro Bay council voted on changes to regulations for secondary dwelling units and guest houses.

Irons and his wife, Monica Irons, the human resources director for the city of San Luis Obispo, own multiple properties in Morro Bay. One property they own has a secondary dwelling unit, and they have submitted plans, as well, to construct a guest house. Irons recused himself from last week’s vote because of the secondary unit and the guest house plan, he said.

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Morro Bay City Council

The proposed ordinance would have banned property owners from using secondary dwelling units as vacation rentals. City staff initially argued it was necessary to enact the vacation rental ban so secondary dwelling units would remain options for affordable long-term rental housing.

Nevertheless, on March 21, the day before the council meeting,  Morro Bay Community Development Director Scot Graham changed direction and sent a memo to the city council recommending the vacation rental ban be stricken from the the secondary dwelling unit ordinance.

At the council meeting, Morro Bay planner Whitney McIlvaine said staff decided to strike the vacation rental ban in response to comments and questions received by the city. The council correspondence packet for the March 22 meeting only contained two letters about the vacation rental ban. One of the letters came from Jamie and Monica Irons.

The mayor and his wife submitted the letter the morning after Morro Bay staff recommended eliminating the vacation rental ban. Irons said his input did not affect planning staff’s decision.

However, sources had previously told CalCoastNews Irons would frequently meet with city planning and management staff in attempts to influence decisions that pertain to his property holdings.

Stedjee’s FPPC complaint questions whether Irons lobbied the city on the vacation rental ban prior to submitting the letter and speaking at the council meeting.

“Until just a day before the council meeting, staff had strongly stated its support for the prohibition of using secondary units as vacation rentals, and had made a strong case to support its position,” the complaint states. “Then, suddenly, right before the meeting, and after the original agenda was published, they completely reversed their position — something obviously financially beneficial to the mayor.”

Irons disagrees. He said he recused himself out of an abundance of caution and his comments to the council were not focused on the vacation rental ban.

“The comments submitted to council were our comments based on personal experience, not personal interest and addressed the ordinance as a whole with eight requests for consideration,” Irons said. “My public comments were merely an expansion of the letter we submitted to council.”

In his letter to the council, Irons included eight directions on how the city should construct the ordinance. Number three included Irons’ views on vacation rentals.

“Prohibited uses of vacation rentals — remove entirely from secondary unit and guesthouses,” Irons said in his letter. “Vacation rentals in conjunction with residences, should be encouraged not discouraged as it provides income to offset home ownership and provided TOT and business license revenue to the city.”

The council voted to pass the ordinance without a vacation rental ban. The ordinance will return to the council for final approval on April 12.


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Redsoxman

Well,well, well….looks like ‘Ol Ironhead finally followed through on a promise. You remember, don’t you? The one when he said that the reason for the forced dismissal of the City Manager and City Attorney would be apparent “in due time”. It took long enough, but there you have it. I know for a fact that Andrea would not have allowed his bullying of staff to get what he wanted; both she and Rob would have stood up to him, Andrea on the moral aspect and Rob on the legal aspect. I also remember a certain “activist” stating how “very wise” this charlatan was. I think “sly” would be a better description, as in “fox watching the henhouse” sly.I hate to say “I told you so” (actually, I LOVE to say that), but I told you so.


coco

Yes you told us so, but unfortunately few listened and you were right on!


MBvoter

This council does whatever it wants regardless of conflict of interest or actual legality and they have an attorney who will tell them It’s All OK. Who will dare to stand up to them and face the retaliation.

What have they done in 3 years.

They chase after every retired person who hung a painting somewhere in town making them pay for a business license, people now have to pay a fee to keep their American flag up because the pole is to high. We have NO new sewer, we lost our partners that would have shared the costs and we’re short $3. million this year in our budget Guess we won’t see our streets getting paved, so much for that promise.

Oh but wait, lets have another “Workshop” so we can be Transparent, this one for “code enforcement”, funny they didn’t think of that first. It’s an election year, they need to play to the crowd. So much for putting the right people in office, guess the jokes on us.


mbactivist1

I honestly think that if the rest of the Council would stop listening to Irons, think for themselves, and vote as their own consciences and common sense dictate, things would improve radically. They all seem to be decent people – just afraid, for some reason, to defy the Mayor and act independently. Come on Council members. Do what we elected you to do and stand up for what’s right.


I agree about that City Attorney. He seems more intent on keeping his firm’s contract than doing what’s best for the City, and keeping the contract seems to mean pleasing Irons.


Also, we still have a couple of staff people from the old days who need to go. They, along with the consultants, have totally screwed up the sewer plant project. These people get paid whether things go right or wrong – not a good way to ensure a successful project. When one’s pay and one’s job don’t depend on good performance, poor results are pretty much guaranteed.


taxpayer

I have to disagree with you comments about the current council. They’re all totally incompetent. They love to hear themselves talk and they love to tell the city manager how great he is. They’re all talk and no action.


As far as the city attorney, he’s not a city attorney. He’s attorney being paid by the hour, including travel time, to work for the city. At one time we had a city attorney on a set salary. This council, in their infinite wisdom, decided that it would be better to pay an outsider an outrageous hourly salary. Check out the budget to see how much this has cost the taxpayers of Morro Bay.


Councilwoman Johnson’s husband was hired by Monica Iron’s boss to do a job that he was unqualified for in San Luis Obispo. He has since been promoted. San Luis Obispo’s city manager stayed at Mayor Irons house before this happened. There is such an incestuous relationship between these two cities that it’s way beyond the pale.


Beyond that, no one on this council, except John Hedding, has ever

run a business or had to make a payroll. Yet, they have no problem making it hard for those hardworking people who have. This has been a very expensive learning experience for all the people who worked so hard to get them elected. They were corrupt from the get go.


mb business owner

it is encouraging to see a group of people, such as the nutmeg group who are getting sold a bill of goods on the new wwtp site, getting involved. hopefully someone that is just “fed up enough” will run for office – time to change the tide!


horse_soldier

Another public servant just livin’ the dream…


coco

You mean a horse trader that LOL in the mic chuckling all the way to the bank, as he pads his pockets on his investment around town, yep he’s living his dream.


Old Salt

Airbnb, Inc

(Air bed & bath)

Neighbors in the vicinity of those vacation rentals will have to accept the fact that people from anywhere in the world will be in their neighborhoods on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Earning big money is the name of the game.


Jorge Estrada

Sounds like he is only doing like many in Morro Bay. How can you not talk about wood if your a termite on a lumber pile? Even a termite has to eat to feed their enzymes.


Kaiser Bill

Total Dope Jamie Irons and Trust Fund Baby Noah Smukler have to go! Sad!


taxpayer

This mayor and city council are the worst the City has ever seen in the history of Morro Bay. Although, I agree with the mayor’s comments about vacation rentals, the way he went about the process was totally out of line. Why doesn’t this surprise me? Because everything they’ve done, from the hiring of the City Manager and the Assistant City Manager to the mismanagement of the current wastewater treatment plant hasn’t been done correctly. Also, whose house had the streets paved in front of first? Mayor Irons. The citizens of Morro Bay have been had! The funny thing is that, finally, the people who voted for such incompetence are waking up. Better late than never.


Pelican1

re·cuse

riˈkyo͞oz/

verbNorth American

verb: recuse; 3rd person present: recuses; past tense: recused; past participle: recused; gerund or present participle: recusing


challenge (a judge, prosecutor, or juror) as unqualified to perform legal duties because of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.

“a motion to recuse the prosecutor”

(of a judge) excuse oneself from a case because of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.

“the Justice Department demanded that he recuse himself from the case.”

The Mayor should resign. He clearly is guilty of dereliction of duty by lobbying the council after recusing himself. He is a fraud.


taxpayer

What else is new?


achillesheal

Can we please change the term “Public Service” to “Self Service” once and for all?


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