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.

Document

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.


Loading...
kayaknut

This has been going on in government circles for decades, long before Irons became mayor of Morro Bay. Why is only now a problem?


Redsoxman

It’s a “problem” because your boy (and I KNOW he was your boy since day 1) ran on a platform of transparency and change from the old days. Only when he gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar does he achieve said transparency. Your argument smacks of “that is the way it’s always been”, such a pitiful way of justifying his actions. I’d suggest you jump in your kayak and paddle off to some other port where this is the accepted norm. I’ve heard there’s some real nice coastal towns in Russia…


kayaknut

Many politicians for decades have said they are transparent and for change, they certainly don’t say what it really means which is give me money and I’ll return the favor in votes. You seem to think this is a new thing, Irons may be doing it, and the mayor before him did it and before and before and before. It may seem like that’s the way it’s always been and certainly is not right but funny how those that are pointing our the issues with the current mayor seem to forgot the past mayor did the exact thing but that was okay because they were the ones on the receiving end of the benefits and now they are not.


Redsoxman

So again, you’re saying we should forget what the current mayor is doing due to the transgressions of past mayors. I repeat, “pitiful”.


mbactivist1

So true, kayaknut.


Do these people all start out scheming to make their times in office profitable for themselves and their pals, or do they start out honest, and then give in to the temptation to take advantage of their positions?


Either way, the residents are the losers.


MBwaiter

For Irons he did not start out honest. From day one he has been lying, bullying , cheating. Of course Johnson has to go along with whatever Irons says because Irons wife got Johnson’s’ husband a job at City of SLO.


coco

The talk around town is many residents would take the previous City Councils and Mayors as oppose to the council there is now. There is little transparency, when the Mayor, Council and Staff discuss major issues like Vacation Rentals after 10:30 PM and the Public is unaware of the issue. Also the Mayor and Council kept secret they purchased DiStasio’s and the parking lot across the street. All important issues are discussed and voted on late in the evening, and slammed through sometimes at 11:30 PM with NO PUBLIC INPUT.


Unreal

By the way coco-I understand that they did not buy Distasio’s, they blocked the building sale between the landlords’ creditors and the restaurant owners.. The city had some kind of a legal issue that allowed them to block the sale and then they took it away back for about $1.5M.


The story is that they are going to chase out the restaurant and build a CONFERENCE CENTER. Been there done that!!!


coco

Unreal – Yes you are right on that, and by the way The Inn At Morro Bay has a beautiful remodeled Conference Center, so they will kill two businesses at the same time with the same stone.


Shocked in MB

Take a look at the 5-0 votes with this council. I cannot recall ever having that many 5-0 votes. That tells me that no one is watching out for our interests.


AmericaBeautiful

MIcro-managing people will lead to corruption. It’s inevitable.

Homeowners should have the freedom to decide what to to with their own property.

It’s an expensive place to live and many could use the income.


mbactivist1

Not when it harms everyone else. When self-interest causes harm to the neighbors, as in this case, it’s wrong.


coco

Well, this council needs to go! Morro Bay citizens need to step up to the plate and vote the Mayor out, along with the two Council Members up for election.


diamond

The same council thats trying to ban homeowners from storing their boats and RVs on their own property. They are looking for ordinances that will impose fees on the community. This new manager Buckingham isn’t doing original work, only carbon copying other cities ordinances. Buckingham has hired two code enforcement officers and a minion / personal assistant. The city is seeking ways to pick the pockets of the citizens, because apparently we don’t pay enough already! And the streets in North Morro Bay still look like the dark side of the moon. Is anyone running against these people in the upcoming election? Noah used to be one of us but he has sold out. Probably seeking a higher office soon. So disheartening….


taxpayer

Noah was never “one of us”. And he will soon be seeking the job of 2nd District Supervisor. He’s a self promoting phoney and always has been.


coco

I don’t know what “one of us” means, but Noah doesn’t have his own mind, he is a follower, and controlled by the chameleon.


mbactivist1

I always thought he was controlled by that creepy crawler

Gibson


mb business owner

perhaps this is a wakeup call the residents of morro bay need. christine johnson, noah smuckler and especially irons have accomplished nothing during their terms and have caused possible irreparable damage to our once fair city. here is a small list of the atrocities; firing competent employees for no reason(city attorney, city manager, recreation and parks director, city clerk), hiring a city manager with a questionable background, allowing the city manager to hire staff without funds, job descriptions or authority; mismanaging the wwtp project resulting in a cost to residents of over 70+ million, and the list could go on. lets all make a wise decision in November 2016 or revisit a recall effort for this trio or perhaps the whole lot.


coco

Definitely is a major wakeup call for all that were fooled by the chameleon.


mbactivist1

It is hard to find decent, honest people to run for office. The pay is bad, the hours are long, and most people just aren’t up for it unless they have something to gain personally.


I have seen very few really good people run during the time I’ve lived here, and they usually lose because their honest and decent campaign methods lose out to the dishonest, sleazy, and vicious attack methods used by their unscrupulous opponents.


Regarding firings of former City staff, the majority of the residents wanted the former City Attorney and City Manager fired, and there was very nearly dancing in the streets when that happened, because what they were doing was terrible.. That the current Mayor had self-serving rather than altruistic motives for getting rid of them is certainly possible, but most people wanted those two gone, and had wanted that for years..


We certainly can’t return to the horrible situation that existed under the old regime. Under the old Council, the City was constantly picking the pockets of the taxpayers to benefit real estate people, developers, and Embarcadero business interests. The majority of residents wanted that stopped. That’s why a new crew was elected.


Fear of a return to the “bad old days” may be what Irons uses to control the Council – the fear that if they don’t all stand together, the old guard will return to power In fact, he once told me something pretty close to that.


Unfortunately, the “new guard” doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot better, but I think that is largely due to Irons and his bad influence.


mb business owner

Nice attempt at rewriting history. Nuff said


mbactivist1

Wrong again, mb. The old regime was absolutely awful, which was why they got booted out of office by such a huge majority. We thought that with the new group, things would improve. Sadly, that didn’t happen.


Please, honest and decent people, consider running for office. There must be some people out there who really do want to help make Morro Bay a better place, rather than using it for personal gain.


taxpayer

Don’t let the truth stand in the way of what really happened. Your comments are completely false concerning what happened with the past city manager and city attorney. As far as the past councils, they’ve all done a much better job than anyone sitting at the dais today. They were also much more ethical.


mbactivist1

Nonsense. The old regime, including the fired City staff members, were looking out only for themselves and their cronies – many of whom post to this site.


Pelican1

You mean you are finally admitting that Boy Wonder and his contemptuous council are NOT what you so vocally and tirelessly lobbied for, but are nothing more than self serving, narcissistic, buffoons who lied to the citizens of Morro Bay in order to get elected.

hy·poc·ri·sy….see Irons and council.


MBwaiter

Are you being sarcastic? “The majority of the residents wanted the former City Attorney and City Manager fired…dancing in the streets…” Seriously?… You cannot rewrite history; just watch the tapes of meetings when the firing was going on to see the support for Lueker and Shultz. It was Irons who was dancing in the streets because he saw the future of being able to do whatever he wanted. If they were both so terrible how is it they both moved on to successful careers and are well respected in the communities they work in? Shultz has been appointed to State Committees and has received substantial raises since leaving MB. Ironically, the way PERS Pension works MB will have to pay his pension at the higher rate for the 20 years he worked here. On top of that, please do a Public Records Act Request and you will find out how much the City is paying their current attorney. You will be shocked! Don’t look at the Budget because it is hidden in various departments. It is more than twice as much as we were paying Shultz. Is the Town better off? Absolutely not.


taxpayer

If anyone tried to dance in the streets in Morro Bay, they would break a leg because of the potholes! Unless, of course, they were dancing on Jamie Iron’s street since it was repaved.


coco

Funny and so true!


mbactivist1

They had very few supporters. It may have seemed like there were more because they were so unruly and loud, but the majority was thrilled to see Schultz and Lueker go. That’s why the current Council was re-elected by such huge margins. They were able to gain a second election victory because people were still so grateful that they got rid of those two.


Redsoxman

Wow….just, wow…Amazing how your, for lack of a better word, hate, of the former City Manager and City Attorney has led you to paint that sordid blood-letting of their dismissal in rainbow colours, with unicorns in the streets with the dancing people. Your half-hearted condemnation of Irons’ actions, along with his crew, smacks of someone who can’t quite admit they were way off base in supporting this whole escapade. I’d have much more respect (up from zero) for you if you could just admit you were totally wrong, these people now in charge are hooligans, and that Irons. a “very wise man” in your words, should be booted from the stage along with his cohorts.


mbactivist1

No – those of us who supported Irons were wrong, but I believe that the others would be able to do a good job for us without his influence.


Pelican1

The only one’s “dancing” in the streets were the voters who were stupid enough to be duped by the lying buffoons who took office and now have failed the citizens of Morro Bay. Their self indulgent, self serving, unprofessional behavior is exactly what we the opponents expected.


MBwaiter

This has been going on since King Irons was elected. Why do you think he fired the previous City Manager and City Attorney? Because King Irons is known for frequently telling them to change their recommendations and opinions on numerous important issues.Just ask any employee and they will tell you that Shultz got so fed up with Irons trying to influence his recommendations and violate the law that he told him to get out of his fucking office. Can you imagine tell your boss to get out of your fucking office.So they were fired and King Irons had them replaced with people who will do what he says. King Irons and City management have absolutely no ethics.


achillesheal

Truth copying fiction.


In the Showtime series “Billions” the US Attorney publicly recuses himself to avoid any potential conflict of interest from the prosecution of Axe Capital yet still runs the prosecution from behind the scenes.


Great show if you haven’t seen it.