Council acts on ethics ordinance, commission
George Fairbanks, News Editor, Roseville Review
June 20, 2006
After numerous discussions and lengthy debate, the Roseville City Council enacted a new code of ethics for city employees and also moved to re-establish the city's ethics commission at its June 12 meeting. The new ethics code passed on a 3-2 vote with Mayor Craig Klausing and Council Members Tammy Pust and Dean Maschka voting in favor and Council Members Tom Kough and Amy Ihlan voting in opposition. The resolution to re-establish the ethics commission passed on a 4-1 vote with Kough voting no. In an interview last week, Klausing explained the measure taken June 12 essentially takes the city's code of ethics and raises it to the level of a city ordinance. The code goes into great detail as to what constitutes unethical behavior.
Before voting on the code of ethics and ethics commission issues, Kough proposed three amendments that all failed. In the first proposed amendment, Kough asked that an outside source, such as a judge, name people to the ethics commission, rather than the City Council. "There's a lot of conflict of interest here," Kough said. Ihlan supported Kough's amendment. "I'd speak in favor of it for the reason it would give more genuine independence to the ethics commission," Ihlan explained. Klausing spoke in opposition of the amendment because he said he wanted the ethics commission to "reflect the values of the community" and he wasn't sure a person with no links to Roseville could adequately name a commission that would reflect those values. Pust also spoke in opposition to Kough's amendment. "The people of Roseville elected this Council to do its work. Historically, the ethics commission that existed was appointed by this Council," Pust said. "I certainly trust the citizens, if they think their elected officials are not appointing people in a fair and impartial way, will make that known by the way they vote at the polls." Kough's first amendment failed 3-2 with Kough and Ihlan voting for it.
Should attorneys, consultants sign on?
Kough then proposed an amendment that would include the city attorney and paid consultants in the code of ethics. He argued they are essentially city employees and should be bound by the same standards. Ihlan voiced strong support for the amendment. Klausing, however, said he considers the city attorney and paid consultants unique employees because they have contracts with the city. In last week's interview, Klausing explained the city is best served by wording expectations of ethical behavior into contracts and then, if those expectations are not met, terminating the contract. During the meeting, Klausing also noted his opinion that attorneys are already bound by a strict ethical code that includes an oversight component. Kough's second proposed amendment also failed on a 3-2 vote with Kough and Ihlan voting in favor. The new code of ethics defines public officials as "members of the City Council and Mayor; the department head and assistant department head of each city department; any person that has been appointed by the Roseville City Council. This would include city commission, board, and task force members; and the city manager."
The third amendment Kough proposed would have given investigative authority of ethics complaints to the ethics commission rather than the city attorney and city manager. According to the resolution, in instances where the city attorney or city manager might have a conflict with regard to an investigation, an outside source would be brought it. "This is a strong one for me," Kough said. However, Pust noted her opposition to the way investigations were handled in the past when the ethics commission did investigate and often had to handle private data. "I believe the way it was done in the past was an inappropriate way to do it," Pust said. Kough's third amendment also failed on a 3-2 with Kough and Ihlan voting in favor. When questioned at the meeting, Klausing also explained the ethics code will be considered an ordinance but will not have criminal penalties associated with it, but if an allegation is determined to violate law, the appropriate legal body might take action. According to the code, "If there is no violation of criminal law, the city attorney and city manager, as the case may be, shall issue a report that documents the results of the city attorney's or city manager's investigations. "The report shall be sent directly to the City Council if the complaint involves an ethics commission member. The Council shall have the authority to dismiss any ethics commission member found to have violated the ethics code. "The report shall be sent to the ethics commission if the complaint involves other public officials. The ethics commission shall have the authority to convene and issue it's own report and recommendation to the City Council. Thereafter, the City Council shall take action as the Council deems appropriate."
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