California Gov. Jerry Brown appears to have committed an impeachable offense in using state experts to study the potential for oil development on his private property, as uncovered by the Associated Press on Thursday.
California public ethics laws forbid elected officials from using state resources for personal or political gain.
Section 8314 of the California Government Code indicates: “It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer…to use or permit others to use public resources for…personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.”
The term “public resources” includes equipment, vehicles, computers, and “state-compensated time.” The lawsuit that first exposed Gov. Brown’s personal use of state experts alleges that he diverted scarce state resources.
Violations are to be punished by civil penalties of $1,000 per day for each day of the offense, plus triple the value of the diverted resources.
Though not a criminal offense, Brown’s apparent violation would be an impeachable offense.
California Government Code Section 3020 specifies: “State officers elected on a statewide basis, members of the State Board of Equalization, and judges of state courts are subject to impeachment for misconduct in office.”
Another, more difficult option would be to recall the governor, who has enjoyed high approval ratings until now.
Just as in federal impeachment, articles of impeachment have to be filed in the lower house, the State Assembly, before moving to trial in the State Senate.
However, the Lieutenant Governor, not the Chief Justice, would preside.