Back to the Ethics Ordinance Drawing Board

There was plenty of drama late yesterday afternoon as the Democratic and Republican caucuses of the Metro Council met. The topic – the proposed ethics ordinance. The result – no agreement on ethics legislation.

One source told me that the Republican members were as upset as they’ve ever been over any issue. For several weeks, members Ken Fleming and David Tandy (the Dem. MC president), working with the law firm Goldberg & Simpson, had come up with amendments to the ordnance that both thought would be acceptable to Dems on the Council.

But Dem caucus members had concerns about the new document. It didn’t show what was changed. It was unclear, according to the Dems, exactly who was covered. Political activity, such as the sending of e-mails on political issues (call it the Doug Hawkins caveat), wasn’t clear enough. Dems still don’t like the fact that any bumpkin could file a complaint, and Dems don’t want ethics complaints floating around in the media based on near-anonymous complaints.

So Councilwoman Marianne Butler came up with a new proposal and presented to the caucus at 4. It was a re-write of the current ordinance, with rules on filing complaints adapted from the state personnel  code. That document was distributed to the Metro Council at 5:15.  But she didn’t introduce or act on it last night.

When it came up in the full meeting, Fleming withdrew his sponsorship and the measure died. Butler may introduce her version at the next Council meeting. Republicans are upset that their ordinance, which they worked so long to finalize, was so easily defeated. And they don’t like the new Butler version.

They say it doesn’t include the following key points:

Requirements that all ethics complaints be given a hearing within 90 days of being filed.

Requirements the Ethics Commission to appear before the Metro Council and report any reasons for a delay in the hearing process.

Requirements to expand the number of Metro employees covered to include more management level positions and anyone with the ability to make purchases of $10,000 or more.

Requirements that 2/3 of the council to approve any appointment to the ethics commission.

Requirements that Metro utilizes technology to increase transparency and makes it easier for the general public to access documents via the web.

New stronger definitions regarding what is considered a conflict of interest.

New stronger, more consistent and universal definition of “family member” when dealing with contracts, employment or other activities.

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