November 15, 2005

The Woodside City Council has adopted a new oath based, as we understand it from the Almanac, on the grounds that no sane person can say he or she is taking a public office “without any mental reservation” and the promise to defend “against enemies, foreign and domestic” seems “a bit silly at the town council level”.

The new oath includes a pledge to uphold the Town’s general plan, abide by its code of ethics, and be responsive to its citizens. We kind of like the new oath. We think they should also pledge to treat all citizens fairly and even to listen to all citizens with equal diligence and to fully investigate citizen complaints and to have a more accessible and open government.

The problem is, as we understand it, the State Constitution requires the following oath

I, ________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

The California Constitution requires all City officers to take the “constitutional oath” prior to assuming the duties of office. The reason for this is that in a state of emergency they are deemed to be disaster service workers. The problem is that the Constitution states that “no other oath, declaration, or test, shall be required as the qualification for any public office or employment.” We don’t know if the failure to give the required oath to City officials and employees can result in actions being invalidated.

So we suggest that rather than a required oath, there be a voluntary commitment by all Town officials, employees and board and committee members to the Town’s General Plan, ordinances and policies, to abide by the highest standard of ethics, to treat all citizens fairly and respectfully and to abide by the law. Moreover, they should committee to a more open form of government with more information on-line and televised Council meetings. We would also like to see a commitment to improving the planning process and to conscientiously addressing citizen complaints.

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