Menifee Council sees advantage of e-filing, paperless campaign disclosure statements

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The Menifee City Council reviewed an ordinance authorizing the use of a recommended electronic and paperless filing of Fair Political Practices Commission Campaign Disclosure Statements at the Nov. 20 city council meeting.

The city clerk’s office is seeking the council’s approval of the ordinance that would require any elected officer, candidate, committee or other person to file campaign contribution statement reports or other documents online or electronically with its local filing officer. The filing is not required for candidates or committees or candidates who receive or make expenditures less than $2,000 in a calendar year, according to the California code.

The electronic filing system must meet a defined criteria and be satisfied by a local government agency and be free of charge to the filers and available to the public to view the statements or reports as set by the recently passed Assembly Bill 2452.

Many local government agencies have chosen to go with the e-filing system that the CFPPC supports and encourages efforts to move from the previous paper-based system, seeing that it is more transparent and consistent.

A Menifee staff report showed that NetFile is a web-based campaign filing system that meets the criteria of AB 2452 and allows a local government agency to become a paperless filing agency.

The staff recommended the city use the NetFile campaign filing system that is already being used by many of the neighboring cities. The system will provide immediate online access of redacted statements and accessibility to online statements that will reduce staff time in providing filed statements and will continue to demonstrate the greatest level of transparency.

An electronic system will also provide a simple method of reporting and would assist committees in complying with the 24-hour reporting requirement as well as support the city clerk’s office to manage voluminous reports filed on a 24-hour basis, especially during a busy election cycle.

The staff urged the approval by the city council to authorize the city clerk to use an electronic filing system and accept e-filed statements in lieu of paper filings that will reduce paper waste, administrative time spent processing paper files, and make such reports immediately available to the public, via the city’s webpage.

The city clerk would also use NetFile’s system for electronic filing of the Statement of Economic Interest Form 700. To facilitate the full transition to electronic filing, the city clerk’s office will continue to provide detailed instructions and training.

The council favored the change, but indicated that political candidates, not familiar with computers or electronics, could still paper file their statements with the city clerk, but once choosing to file electronically, would always have to file electronically.

The council in an earlier workshop again continued their discussion on the proposed Draft Comprehensive Development Code update that will employ the mandated California Building Code regulations and still maintain local control of their stricter building and fire codes sought by the residents.

The Wednesday workshop was focused on repealing Title 9 of the Menifee Municipal Code and adopting a new Title 9 “Planning and Zoning.” The amendment will also include the adoption of an updated zoning map.

The staff declared the primary objective of the updated zoning map is to achieve consistency with the adopted General Plan Land Use Map. The new Title 9 consolidates and creates new names for the zoning classifications, and is also reflected on the updated zoning map.

Staff has also updated design guidelines that apply to single-family residential, multi-family residential, commercial and industrial projects and to hillside development. The design guidelines are a compilation of a variety of guidelines the city has inherited from the county upon incorporation, along with design standards that have been removed from the code and added to the guidelines and best practice standards.

Council members asked for clarification of several parts of Title 9 in regard to the Hillside Development Standards and the prohibition of grading slopes in relation to steep slopes, hillsides, peaks or ridgelines.

Better definitions of the terms were desired by the council.

Better guidelines for the city’s Urban Agriculture Incentive zones and community gardens as by-right uses that the state has recently changed was also asked.

Staff took the questions under advisement and come back to the council with possible answers to better refine the codes.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.