The decision to lay off pursuing added authority also came after the city attorney’s office affirmed an earlier determination that the commission could not act as both investigator and judge, and at the same time protect due process.
In September, the commission voted to pursue a second legal opinion on its authority under the city’s charter to initiate investigations into alleged employee misconduct after an assistant city attorney determined that the commission would nullify due process if it assumed investigatory powers in addition to its quasi-judicial role.
Currently, the commission hears misconduct cases or claims filed by city management or employees, but cannot initiate or investigate cases on its own.
The commission had been scheduled to hear a second opinion on the matter twice before Wednesday, but each time it was postponed without explanation. After the commission voted last year to pursue the matter following allegations of police misconduct from a city activist at a City Council meeting, then-Mayor John Drayman said the move appeared to have a “political bent.”
On Wednesday, Howard affirmed the original 2003 legal opinion, finding that the city’s charter, as well as common law, does not allow for the commission to assume an investigatory role.
Commissioner Sam Manoukian said that while he agreed with the finding, he needed assurances that their concerns over “very disturbing” situations were being addressed by city management.
Howard acknowledged that two of the past cases Manoukian was referring to had been investigated, but that the commission had not been notified. He assured the commissioners that he and other city officials would provide follow-ups in the future, and could do so without compromising confidentiality or due process rules.
Commission Chairman Albert Abkarian also emphasized the importance for all city employees and executives to take conduct hearings seriously, adding that he would personally pursue any case of fraud or retaliation for telling the truth, even if it meant he’d have to recuse himself.
“I will make sure that you will pay for it,” he said.