Ethics Review Board Dismisses Complaint Against Shaw, Staffer for Campaign Event Email

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Councilman William 'Cruz' Shaw (D2) listens to a press conference regarding the Ingram Shopping Center fire investigation.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Councilman William "Cruz" Shaw (D2).

The City’s Ethics Review Board unanimously voted Tuesday to dismiss a complaint lodged against Councilman Cruz Shaw (D2) and his director of constituent services, Jarvis Soileau, for illegally campaigning against three firefighters union-backed propositions on the November ballot.

Shaw and Soileau did not violate the City’s ethics code that prohibits the use of City resources for political activity, the board found, when Soileau forwarded a communication sent to him from a neighborhood association inviting community members to a “Free Community Breakfast and Community Meeting” that turned out to be a rally for the Go Vote No campaign on Sept. 8.

The email did not contain any overt reference to the event, which served coffee and breakfast tacos, only that “City Officials will be addressing several issues of concerns to the Community.”

Soileau told the board he did not know that it was a political event until afterwards. “If I would have known that was the case, I would have never sent that email out,” he said.

Part of his job is to keep the community aware of activities and events in District 2, he said, which includes the historically underserved East Side of the city. He focuses email blasts on neighborhood associations, but has access to a network of more than 10,000 email addresses for area partners.

“In District 2, communication is such a challenging [job] because of the digital divide,” he said, so he relies on neighborhood leaders to help him get the word out.

Shaw, who did not attend the meeting, said the email should not have been sent and self-reported the possible violation soon after hearing about it, as did Soileau.

Several former and current City Council members attended the event to call for citizens to vote against the propositions that would, among other things, expand the range of issues voters could petition to vote on in the future and make it easier to do so; cap the tenure and compensation of future city managers; and force the City into binding arbitration with the firefighters union over a new labor contract.

Eiginio Rodriguez, a retired firefighter who supports the propositions, filed the ethics complaint after seeing the fire union’s Facebook post calling for citizens to report Shaw and Soileau and similar activity.

Rodriguez told the board that he was glad Shaw and Soileau self-reported.

“During that time, they did have access to more than 10,000 emails for their side  – since the event was political,” he said. “We don’t have that opportunity.”

Rodriguez said he does not believe that Soileau sent the email on purpose, but would like to see clearer lines drawn between the roles of Council members’ district staff and campaign staff, which are paid by the City and campaigns, respectively. Soileau works for the City.

“I really appreciate the effort of all the committee members,” Shaw said. “I’m really pleased at the outcomes.”

Since the complaint was filed, Shaw said, he and his staff “vet each email” to make sure it’s not political, adding “it may slow down the [communication] process.”

Two members of the citizen board that is appointed by City Council members and the mayor recused themselves from the vote: Patrick Lang (D2) and Linda Jackson (D6).

3 thoughts on “Ethics Review Board Dismisses Complaint Against Shaw, Staffer for Campaign Event Email

  1. Jarvis Soileau worked for Sheila McNeil and Ivy Taylor .. he has been around the city and it is extremely surprising that he didn’t know the rules. I find it hard to believe the Ethics Board didn’t take some action. My question, how many times has this been done in District 2 ? RE: Jarvis and what he should have known: According to the SA Observer “Jarvis is excited to be back working in the district he loves. He has worked for two former District 2 Council members – Sheila McNeil and Ivy Taylor ..” see : Eigenio did a good thing, see something, say something. Ethics Board, NOT so much !

  2. Jarvis knew the rules. What he didn’t know was that the event he emailed about (using a city email account) was a political event. Since that’s what it took to violate the rules, the Ethics Board correctly determined he did not violate them. The story is pretty clear about that. No commenter conspiracy theories necessary.

  3. would be interesting to see a few paragraphs about the ethics rules at question vice a general reference to them. or at least a link. And, perhaps an argument about why it was an ethics violation – the article implies if he had used a private email to send the exact same message it would not have been a possible ethics violation?

    The point is that sending an email is either an ethics violation or it is not – it really should not matter if there was a .gov address as sender. What was the ethical principle being violated – or was it a technical rule because someone made the rule? There is a difference.

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