Community Del Mar

Council decides members should not vote on appointment of spouses

DEL MAR — “This is over for tonight,” said Del Mar Mayor Dave Druker at a June 17 City Council meeting, putting a cap on a months-long conversation regarding the ethics of significant others serving simultaneously on the council and one of the city’s two other quasi-judicial bodies.

Council voted unanimously to modify its policy when it comes to the committee, board and commission appointment process. The modification mandates that a council member must recuse him or herself from voting on the appointment of an applicant to a committee, commission or board seat if their significant other is among the applicants.

The resolution was the culmination of a long, contentious dialogue that started in March — as Design Review Board Chair Tim Haviland neared the end of his four-year term and faced potential reappointment to the Board. Haviland is the husband of City Councilwoman Ellie Haviland.

In response, Druker and Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland suggested in March that the council consider a policy to bar significant others of city council members from serving concurrently on either the Design Review Board or the Planning Commission. Both bodies make decisions that are occasionally appealed to the City Council.

The item prompted a complex and lengthy dialogue on nepotism, bias and conflict of interest — the city has received dozens, if not hundreds of red dots on the topic over the past several months.

Residents came out in droves to speak to the issue in March and beyond, many in support of such a policy on the grounds that it would protect the city from liability, in the case of perception of bias or actual bias. Others saw such a policy as an unnecessary deterrent to service in a small city.

Because the suggested policy has been and still is opposed by the majority of the council, the discussion has largely stagnated.

“I believe all of us have made up our minds,” Druker said.

However, all parties were able to agree that a council member should not be voting on the potential appointment of a spouse to any of the city’s bodies — which would include Design Review Board and the Planning Commission.

Councilwoman Haviland recused herself from the Design Review Board appointment process in April — which ended in a tie between Tim Haviland and another applicant. Haviland did not resubmit an application when the city revisited the reappointment about a month later.

The June 17 discussion on the item was brief and council members aimed to avoid a lengthy back-and-forth — there was no public comment, as it was a continuation of an item raised at the city’s May 20 council meeting.

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