Within a 30-minute span today, news releases related to ethics reform came out of City Hall.
First, Ken Fleming (R-7) announced that he plans to re-introduce his ethics ordinance at Thursday’s Metro Council meeting. It’s the stronger of the two versions, and is essentially the same language in an ordinance Fleming pulled from the floor at the last full Council meeting, fearing it would be gutted or voted down. The Republicans want the strong language.
“I challenge the public to read both ordinances and I believe anyone who does will understand the intentions of each,” said Republican Caucus spokesman Steve Haag. “Ours is focused on creating a stronger, more ethical framework for government based on national blue-ribbon policies and practices. The other ordinance is a weak ordinance that they’re tweaking to further protect politicians and go after enemies.”
Just 25 minutes later, Democratic caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt sent his own ethics reform package release. This one, backed by Councilwoman Marianne Butler, was introduced at the last Council meeting.
“I was going to wait until after it was assigned to committee, but when they put theirs out, I went ahead and did mine,” Hyatt said.
One of the key provisions is what I call the Doug Hawkins section, which prevents Council members from using e-mail to attack the positions of other Council members or use e-mail for political purposes. Another puts time limits on the process. And the Butler version spells out punishments against citizens who file frivolous complaints.
“It cuts down on people who file complaints just to be filing complaints,” Hyatt said. “Many of the complaints filed over the years have been frivolous. We don’t think anyone in the public will be intimidated by the change in filing a violation.”
Haag said the provision will undoubtedly make individuals hesitate before filing a complaint.
If you read both, ours tightens up certain areas where problems have occurred in the past. Theirs casts a broad net over anyone in government and to date the caucus hasn’t seen a need or justification for change,” Hyatt said.
So here’s what’s going to happen. Word is that the Council is setting up an ad hoc committee to compare the two versions and come up with a compromise. And round and round we go.