Top (Sacramento) City Advisor Resigns To Work For Nestle

By Larry Meade, Sacramento Press, Nov. 2, 2009

Michelle Smira, a Republican strategist and consultant to mayor Kevin Johnson, resigned from her position on October 22.

In a recent interview to the Sacramento News & Review, Smira said that she was leaving her post as a volunteer advisor to focus her energy and attention to supporting Johnson’s Strong Mayor Initiative. However, Smira’s political affairs firm, MMS Strategies, was hired by Nestle Waters to assist in obtaining city support for it’s planned water bottling plant in Sacramento less than 2 days after submitting her letter of resignation.

Below is her letter of resignation:

Dear Mayor Johnson,

It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve as a volunteer in your office, the Office of the
Mayor. The opportunity to serve as your liaison to various organizations and to meet with constituents on your behalf has been very rewarding. Thank you for this opportunity.

I believe strongly that the people of Sacramento voted overwhelmingly for you to represent us as Mayor because we wanted change. What has become apparent is that we desperately need change. I will be stepping away as a volunteer in your official office to further help promote these goals in the community. I believe that the only way to ensure that Sacramento is truly “a City that Works for Everyone” is if you are in fact leading our City. We need to change our antiquated structure and I will be there to help educate our community on the issue.

It has been a wonderful experience working with you at City Hall and I look forward to again helping in this capacity at a later date.

Thank you, Michelle Smira

In a recent interview to the Sacramento News & Review, Smira said that she was leaving her post as a volunteer advisor to focus her energy and attention to supporting Johnson’s Strong Mayor Initiative. However, Smira’s political affairs firm, MMS Strategies, was hired by Nestle Waters to assist in obtaining city support for it’s planned water bottling plant in Sacramento less than 2 days after submitting her letter of resignation.

Had Smira been a paid city employee, she likely would have been prevented to accept a position such as the one with Nestle due to conflict of interest and revolving door policies that attempt to create clear divisions between government, business, and personal gain.

When asked by the Sacramento News & Review about this situation, Jessica Levinson, from the Center for Governmental Studies, said, ““There are all kinds of red flags. When volunteers are used in high level positions, it’s important to make sure they pass conflict of interest provisions.”

Although Smira refers to herself as a volunteer, according to a city ordnance, she would be classified as a consultant. In March 2009, Sacramento City Council approved legislation that states, “An individual may be a consultant whether he or she is compensated or is an unpaid volunteer.” A consultant is defined as someone who “serves in a staff capacity” and “participates in making a governmental decision.”

Attempts to reach Smira and Johnson, as well as representatives from groups opposing the Nestle Water Bottling plant, were unsuccessful. This article will be updated as new information is made available.