Skip to comments.CA: Legislature shouldn't let Shelley duck testimony (ShmelleyGate)
Posted on 02/09/2005 10:00:08 AM PST by NormsRevenge
KEVIN Shelley's swift, infamous slide from public office has ended. But his resignation doesn't mean that the soon-to-be-former California secretary of state should be allowed to walk away from the accusations that undermined his credibility.
There are too many of them and at least eight investigations at the local, state and federal levels. They are serious and the consequences too important to let him off the public hook just because he finally did the right thing. They must be resolved before Shelley can fade into the next phase of his life.
Shelley, 49, said Friday when announcing his resignation that "the tides of this storm are overtaking this office's ability to function effectively," but that was apparent several months ago.
Particularly disturbing was Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez' statement Monday that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which has been holding hearings on Shelley's alleged mishandling of $180.5 milion in federal Help America Vote Act funds, might not meet again. Shelley was to testify Feb. 22, but Nunez said there is no reason for him to do so now that he's resigned.
We disagree. Although investigations by the FBI, Fair Political Practices Commission, California attorney general and others go on, none will be in a public spotlight comparable to Shelley's appearance before the committee.
It's the best and perhaps only chance for California citizens to hear Shelley testify in public about the allegations against him. It's also a perfect opportunity for Shelley, who says he has done nothing wrong "in the eyes of the law," to present a defense against the avalanche of allegations.
It is in everyone's interest for him to testify before the committee.
The state may be required to return millions of dollars in HAVA funds if allegations prove true. The California Bureau of Audits issued a "damning report" in December, accusing Shelley's office of mismanaging federal funds. It goes to the heart of what it was supposed to be doing. In the wake of the Florida fiasco in 2000, the federal government allocated HAVA funds in 2002 to replace outdated voting machines, create statewide voter registration databases and conduct nonpartisan voter education projects.
Shelley has also in brief form been accused of: receiving $125,000 from recipients of a $500,000 state grant for construction of a San Francisco community center that was never built; accepting improper donations; operating a spoils system that the State Personnel Board said skirted civil service laws; creating a "hostile work environment" and verbally abusing some employees; and poor oversight of staff and consultants.
Many issues are unresolved. It's imperative that they be brought to a proper conclusion and charges be filed against Shelley and others if evidence warrants. We urge lawmakers and public officials to keep the process public and not let Shelley duck testimony because he is leaving office.
The other major question is who Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appoints to succeed Shelley in the $131,000-a-year job. The governor should set partisanship aside and appoint the very best qualified person he can find to serve between now and the end of 2006, when the office is up for election.
There is a lot to be done the next couple years. We may have a special election with dueling ballot measures in 2005. County registrars are still trying to replace old voting equipment and rushing to meet a January 2006 deadline to comply with new federal election rules. There will be a full slate of off-year elections in 2006, including a primary in June that could be more complex than last November's ballot.
The names of several Republicans have surfaced as possible appointees. Most are politicians and some are more qualified or palatable than others, but Schwarzenegger needs to appoint an interim director who can guide the office through the labyrinth it faces the next two years.
We suggest he look inside the department or to someone who has experience with the jobs of county registrars, elections and HAVA. That would be a better choice than a politician. Let's attend to the office and its duties first and let who is elected in 2006 take care of itself.
This was to be expected. The local and state investigations will close shop. The only question, IMHO, is what will happen to the federal investigation. I am none too sanguine, because the federal agencies are still full of clintonoids, especially the FBI.
If Shelly goes the way of Coelho then it's time for a barrel of tar and some feathers. A little civil disobedience is good for the political process.
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