Dairy #8 in an ongoing series of my experiences as a candidate for Mountain View, CA City Council
On January 3 this year, I filed the required paper work to announce my intent to become a City Council candidate in the City of Mountain View. A few weeks later, my company gave me the “outside business interest” (OBI) approval to campaign. This was good news. Unbeknownst to me, at that same time, they sent what looked like an innocuous letter to the City Attorney of Mountain View asking for assurances that if I were elected, they’d retain the right to do business with the City. For an explanation of what happened next, read my previous diary here. I’ll wait for you to catch up. Seriously, it’s an interesting read and has a cliffhanger ending. This diary is the resolution of that situation.
Ok, now that you’re back, and all caught up, allow me to tell you what happened next.
A few days after I posted the previous diary, a California political lawyer (with 38 years experience in that field) was hired by supporters to review my situation. After much discussion and analysis of the appropriate documents (both from the City and my firm), he determined that the City Attorney was acting properly. She could not sign the “template” that my firm sent her because it was not her decision to make. He also concluded that the policy for the firm was flawed as it relates to California employees who may be interested in running for public office. The policy (of requiring the city to make assurances that contracts can be entered into if the employee recuses him/herself from the decision process) work well in all other states, but California’s laws are the strictest in the nation. So the firm should amend the policy if the firm doesn’t want to be known for not allowing their employees to hold office. The lawyer wrote a lengthy letter that was sent to my manager. From there, my manager forwarded it to his manager and our internal lawyer who was handling the issue for the firm. I waited eagerly to hear back.
I expected to learn of meetings taking place that would review the policy of requiring the signed “template” in order to grant the employee (me) approval to actually take the seat should he or she (or me!) win the election. Remember, I had approval to run and campaign, but not to take the seat should I win. An untenable situation to be sure! After a few days, I emailed our internal lawyer and he replied that he’d review it with his manager. Two days after that, I called my regional risk officer (Wall Street firms have these kinds of jobs!) and asked her for feedback. She told me the needle was still on “no” (as in you can’t take the seat…why are you even bothering to run?) and it was not going to change. I began to capitulate. The writing was on the wall, I lost the battle.
Giving it one last try, I left a voice mail for the internal lawyer asking him for the results of his meeting (I didn’t even know if he had actually had one) and received a reply three hours later in writing. In his missive, he reiterated that the firm had already approved for me to run and if I should win, still requires assurances from the City that the firm retains the right to do business. This was interesting. It was as if he was saying, “read between the lines.” And that’s exactly how I took it.
The next day, I had my branch compliance officer in my office to review this note. He couldn’t make heads or tails of the message but I decided on the spot, if the firm hasn’t taken away my ability to run, then I’m going to do it. I’m going to re-start my campaign. That was last Wednesday. Normally I would have had this conversation with my manager, but he was out of town on a business trip…with his manager. My compliance officer was surprised but happy.
On Monday of this week, when I came into the branch, my manager called me into his office and was incredulous that I was running. Apparently he had been told by my branch compliance officer of my pronouncement. Not only this, but his manager and his manager’s manager were upset by this development. Everyone had assumed that I had already resigned from the campaign. I had a lengthy conversation with him about this new change. My position was based off of a couple of salient points:
(1) the policy of the firm as it relates to California employees is flawed and needs to change to reflect the complex laws and political realities unique to our state
(2) the FPPC had already defined me as having a “remote interest” (meaning a simple recusal process would be all I needed and the firm could still do business with the City) so management should be comfortable signing my Outside Business Interest should I win the election so I could take the seat.
I was nervous and shaking while talking to him. My wife’s main concern was that if I push too hard, I’d lose my job. I shared that fear. In effect, I was asking nearly an impossible thing. I was asking him to help me change the firm’s policy; a herculean task. Additionally, I was asking for my regional management to take a risk. If they signed my OBI and it turned out that the firm couldn’t do business, it would be on their shoulders. I felt like I was pushing a boulder up a hill. He asked me if it was worth spending all of my internal political capital on this issue (I’ve developed a good reputation within my firm over the past few years). My answer was “Yes. This is worth it because an injustice is being done. Not on purpose, but by happenstance.” He saw the determination in my eyes and the passion in my voice.
The pushing resulted in another meeting taking place to discuss the issue. In the very least, this would be over one way or the other, after the complete team had a chance to talk.
Late last night, I wrote a four page memo to my manager outlining every conceivable detail about the situation, how to deal with it, what needed to be changed from a policy perspective, what indemnification management had with respect to the OBI, etc. Today was the meeting.
At 2:30 this afternoon, my manager called me into his office. He explained that he, his manager, her manager, and his manager were on the call. Additionally, the regional risk officer, three lawyers and I think, a human resources officer. He was shaking his head, but his smiled belied the truth. He told me how the lawyers started out in defense of the policy, but the big manager on the call asked questions that I had been asking all along…and the needle was moving. By the end of the call, not only was management in support of me running, they agreed to sign the OBI should I win the seat. Furthermore (and this is the big victory) the firm is evaluating the policy that caused all this commotion in the first place. Presently, they are checking to see if there are any internal conflicts among the business units, but it looks like this battle has ended.
I feel so relieved and vindicated. I stood up for my principles and to right a wrong. But importantly, I reaffirmed something I knew to be true: my firm is a good place to work, even if I have to remind them of that every nowandagain!
So I won a battle, but the war is just beginning, for the true campaigning starts now. To my beloved and extended Kos community, if you see how hard I work to change a corporate policy, imagine how hard I’ll work to make sure the citizens of Mountain View are cared for. I can use your help. Any and all contributions to my campaign are appreciated.
From here on out, these diaries will catalog the campaign, not my struggles just to be allowed to run.
Thank you for your support.
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