Public officials must be able to distinguish right from wrong. They must know that they serve the public, not their interests and not those of select individuals. Council members who can't understand this don't deserve to hold office.
That includes the four members of the Oakley council who last year approved a sweetheart deal for City Manager Bryan Montgomery that amounted to a $366,500 taxpayer-funded windfall.
Think about it: With the city general fund budget shrinking by about 20 percent over the past five years, officials have had to cut city jobs and ask those who remain to make concessions. Yet they tried to greatly fatten the city manager's net worth in one surreptitious move.
Only after the agreement was exposed on this editorial page did council members rescind it. But they could never bring themselves to admit the ethical and legal lapses.
Fortunately, the terms of three of the four backers of the deal end this year. Councilwoman Pat Anderson isn't seeking re-election. And Councilman Jim Frazier is giving up his seat to run for state Assembly; we are backing his opponent in that race.
However, Kevin Romick, who amazingly continues to defend the deal, wants another term on the City Council. He does not deserve to hold public office.
Five other candidates are also vying for the three council seats in the Nov. 6 election. One, teacher and writer Ron Borland, fully recognizes the seriousness of what
He correctly points out that the council violated the state open meeting law by striking the deal behind closed doors. And Montgomery's dual role negotiating with the council a major change to his home loan, benefiting him at the expense of the taxpayers he was supposed to be protecting, raises concerns of ethical and legal conflicts of interest.
Borland gets it. "When you're the guardian of the purse strings of the public, you cannot give the city manager a gift like that," he said. "That one act was so wrong that it should disqualify you for future service."
While we happily endorse Borland, we had to dig deeper to find two other candidates we could support. We settled on Diane Burgis, the executive director of the Friends of Marsh Creek preservation group, and David Hansen, a real estate salesman and police chaplain.
While they say they would not have supported the deal, they unfortunately don't share Borland's outrage. But they are the best candidates of the remaining field. Both are articulate, and both will have steep learning curves.
We hope three new council members, along with incumbent Randy Pope, who spoke out against the deal last year, can begin to restore integrity to City Hall. However, the housecleaning won't be complete until Montgomery leaves too.
Go to www.contracostatimes.com/endorsements to see our latest voter recommendations.