When I became a judge some 25 years ago, the commission on judicial conduct made me aware that you did not even have to do something bad, as a judge you were held to a higher standard, even the “appearance” of impropriety is wrong.
When I read the lead story in the March 31 edition of The Glendale Star and saw Councilmember Sam Chavira ask for a review of the city’s travel policy, I almost choked. Councilmembers are given taxpayer money to spend for the benefit of the taxpayer, not for their personal pleasure or benefit.
It is really very simple; ask yourself what benefit is the taxpayer going to get from me spending their money. Not very complicated; buying dinner for your boss who’s the fire chief of Phoenix, does not benefit the taxpayer in Glendale. Notice when everyone who benefited from the dinner found out he used a City of Glendale credit card and not his own, they quickly sent their check to the city.
Spending the taxpayer money to go see the Pope does not benefit the taxpayer in Glendale. Going to see Congressman Reuben Gallego sworn in is not going to benefit the City of Glendale.
Once in a while, I have been known to mess up. I told an off-color story, and the commission on judicial conduct wrote me asking about it. Now, I did not think the story was that bad, I do not think the company I told it in was that bad. My first thought was I can beat this rap, I can defend my action. Then, I realized the right thing was “no defense.”
I wrote the commission a three-line reply: It happened. I am sorry. It will not happen again. And the situation went away very quickly.
If Chavira would have said up front, “I messed up, I am sorry, it will not happen again,” this story would have gone away. Asking the council to review the policy keeps it alive.
What does the council write into the policy? “Do the right thing. Spend taxpayer money on the taxpayer.”
Chavira asked the city attorney if he violated city policy in spending the money on himself and the city attorney said, “No.”
He should have asked, “Did I violate the public trust?”
I think the answer is, “yes.”
Lesson: Chavira must have lost his moral compass.