A few members of the Oceanside City Council have collected thousands of dollars in gifts the past five years, our media partner North County Times reports.
Free dinners, football and baseball game tickets are a few of the items council members received – some of those gifts coming from businesses the city worked with, including Waste Management of North County.
The member with the most gifts was Councilman Jerry Kern, who listed roughly $4,000 worth of gifts he received in the last five years the paper reported. He filed dinners, tickets and golf games with the city clerk in his financial disclosure.
Mayor Jim Wood reported receiving about $1,330 in gifts, and Councilman Jack Feller reported $825 worth of freebies.
Recently-elected Councilwoman Esther Sanchez and Councilman Gary Felien did not list any gifts in their financial disclosure, with Sanchez saying she never accepts gifts.
"It just seems like it would be the fairest thing, to not accept gifts," she said. "Otherwise, someone might think you're making decisions based on what someone gave you."
The mayor and council members are allowed to take the gifts as long as they’re reported, said Robert Fellmeth, Price professor of public interest law at the University of San Diego.
But Fellmeth said accepting gifts from lobbyists or others makes him uncomfortable.
"If you're talking about $20 or $30 here or there, it's not the money, it's the relationship, and in the relationship with a public official, there should be a certain arm's length to it," Fellmeth said. "I know the response of most people is, 'You've got to trust your officials. It's their judgment, it's their jobs, they should stand up to their friends.' But they don't."
Read the full story at North County Times.