The Irvine City Attorney reported finding no ethical violations by Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan or Vice Mayor Larry Agran following an ethics complaint filed after an Irvine City Council meeting in December.

The complaint, filed on Dec. 22, alleged that comments from the Mayor and Vice Mayor, regarding local impacts brought on by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, equated to a misuse of city resources. 

During the City Manager’s report at the Irvine City Council meeting on Tues. Jan 9, Irvine City Attorney Jeff Melching explained the complaint specifically called out a three-pronged set of violations in the city’s ethics and municipal codes. 

The first alleged violation, Melching explained, was that the comments occurred during a city council meeting. Melching added that the second violation was “twofold” in that the city’s ethics code prohibits the council from discussing non-municipal items during a meeting and that council members must follow the city’s laws.

“The first piece is a claim that it was a misuse of city resources because those statements took place in city council chambers and because there was ample police security in city council chambers,” he explained. “Our second set of allegations was sort of twofold. One was that the argument that the Irvine Municipal Code forbids discussion of non-municipal issues by city council members in public meetings, and two — that the ethics ordinance requires that city council members abide by city laws and therefore, the first item would then trigger a violation of the ethics ordinance.”

Melching reported finding no violations, adding that despite the distance between the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Irvine, the council has the responsibility to “alleviate tensions” within the community.  

“It has to be acknowledged that the conflict in the Middle East is happening thousands of miles away. It must also be acknowledged that hundreds of people are showing up at protests and demonstrations in the city of Irvine — and hundreds more that are coming to city council chambers,” he said. “Tensions are high in the community. And it is a legitimate objective of the city council to try and find ways to address and alleviate and allay those tensions.”

Since October, hundreds of public speakers have attended city council meetings, some demanding the council pass an emergency resolution for a ceasefire, while others proclaim their support for Israel.  

119 people came to speak on non-agendized items on Tuesday, Dec. 12. The number of public speakers grew to 150 at the most recent meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9. Nearly all of the speakers addressed the Mideast conflicts.  

Both meetings were interrupted by opposing sides becoming unruly toward each other, with Khan threatening to vacate the council chambers if the audience could not be respectful toward other speakers.     

Tension has also been high outside of city hall, where several public demonstrations between Gaza supporters, supporters of Israel and protesters of violence in general have taken place. Irvine City Manager Oliver Chi reported that more than a dozen demonstrations have occurred in Irvine since October, adding that some gatherings have attracted up to 3,000 people.   

Chi acknowledged, however, that despite “the intensity of emotions” between those in attendance at large demonstrations in Irvine, the Irvine Police Department has not reported any arrests or citations related to those gatherings. 

“Kudos go to our police department and our community for the way in which we’ve engaged and allowed everyone, no matter what their opinion is, to have space to be able to share their thoughts,” he said. “Those rallies have varied in size from 50 people to as many as 3000 people. Just incredibly thankful – that all members of our community have demonstrated in such a way that we haven’t had to make any arrests or citations or engage in any uses of force, despite all of the intensity of emotion surrounding the issues at hand.”

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