Council grapples with rules on ethics - East Valley Tribune: Phoenix & The Valley Of The Sun

Council grapples with rules on ethics

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Posted: Saturday, September 17, 2005 6:22 am | Updated: 8:42 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Several members of the Scottsdale City Council are looking to turn over the task of crafting an ethics policy to the residents who elected them.

"It doesn’t seem like a task we should be doing for ourselves," Councilman Jim Lane said. "I also don’t really think that staff ought to be doing it for us, because staff may be held to a similar code of ethics."

The council is slated to discuss possible ethics rules during a meeting Tuesday. Councilman Kevin Osterman is expected to propose creating a committee, made up of residents, that would draw up an ethics code for the council to consider. The council would appoint committee members, Osterman said.

The proposal comes as the council grapples with how far the policy should go to prevent members from activities that could be perceived as conflicts of interest.

Councilwoman Betty Drake, an urban planner, has been hired to work on two highprofile projects expected to run through various levels of Scottsdale’s government.

In May, Drake disclosed all business ties that might pose a conflict for her, and she has recused herself from council discussions and votes concerning those.

However, Drake’s work on the Scottsdale projects has fueled an effort to establish a code that restricts elected officials from creating new conflicts once in office.

Councilmen Ron McCullagh, Bob Littlefield and Lane have been most critical of the councilwoman’s actions. But Lane said he wants only to craft a strong ethics policy.

"There’s an awful lot of talk and division about the three of us . . . somewhat targeting Betty Drake, and I can tell you there’s nothing further from the truth," Lane said. "We should all be held accountable to the same deal."

The councilmen have pointed to Paradise Valley’s code, which speaks to perceived conflicts, as the model Scottsdale should follow. Though detailed in what it restricts, Paradise Valley does not include a way to enforce its rules, Teri Traaen, Scottsdale human resources director, noted in a report to the council. Traaen could not be reached for comment Friday.

"If one is going to go to all the trouble to create something like this, it should have some consequence, or why bother?" Mayor Mary Manross said.

Some cities across the country have established ethics panels to oversee and investigate officials’ conduct, Traaen wrote. San Antonio, which has struggled with public corruption, has gone so far as to employ an ethics compliance officer.

In building its own ethics code, Drake said Scottsdale should avoid alienating residents who can help the city.

"If it gets to the point where anyone who applies to be on a board or commission or runs for elected office is harassed unduly . . . it could really discourage people who say, ‘I have no problems, but I just don’t want to deal with this,’ " she said.

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