Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Man Without Ethics Is A Wild Beast

"I had taken a course in Ethics. I read a thick textbook, heard the class discussions and came out of it saying I hadn't learned a thing I didn't know before about morals and what is right or wrong in human conduct."
-- Carl Sandburg
"Integrity has no need of rules."
-- Albert Camus

The Richardson City Council is on track to deliver on three big expectations dealing with good governance that arose during the 2009 election campaign. First, the council has already instituted cable telecasts and Internet streaming of council meetings. Second, the city is expected to have the city check register online by the end of the year. Third, the council could have a code of ethics in place as early as September 20. (Update: The public hearing has been scheduled for September 13.)

After the jump, the deliberation over ethics.

At the beginning of their current term, the Richardson City Council expressed interest in establishing an ethics policy. At Monday night's Richardson City Council work session, city staff presented the results of their research into the issue and a draft proposal for an ethics policy for the city of Richardson. If any observers were expecting controversy, they must have been disappointed. That there will be an ethics policy seemed to be taken for granted. That it will largely resemble what the city staff drafted seems assured. Deliberation was brief and more often asking for clarification than objecting to anything in the proposed ordinance. No one even hinted that they would vote against a code of ethics altogether.

Bob Macy was ready to rubber-stamp the proposed ordinance, saying he was confident that city staff researched the issues and did a good job drafting the ordinance. His contribution to the proposed ordinance was to point out a spelling mistake.

Bob Townsend and Mark Solomon were largely silent during deliberations.

John Murphy was concerned with keeping frivolous ethics complaints off the television news. The Texas Open Records Act stands in his way.

Steve Mitchell wanted to make sure that just because his house abuts the Spring Valley corridor that he won't have to recuse himself from deliberations regarding land use studies for redevelopment. (The ordinance will be clarified to distinguish between land use studies and, say, zoning ordinance changes.)

Amir Omar wanted to make sure that persons who serve on the city's voluntary boards and commissions won't be prohibited from lobbying the city on behalf of homeowners if they also happen to serve as homeowner association presidents. (The proposal will be modified to remove any such prohibitions.)

Mayor Gary Slagel was ready to put the ordinance on the city council agenda for action at the earliest convenient opportunity. The council scheduled a public hearing for September 20. (Update: The public hearing has been scheduled for September 13.) The public is welcome to speak to the issue during the regular visitors section of any city council meeting before then, but the council will deliberate the ordinance on September 20 and possibly vote on it then as well, assuming nothing arises during the public hearing to cause them to postpone a vote.

So, public, have at it. Does the draft ordinance live up to your expectations? (Update: The revised ordinance can be found here.) If not, what would you like to see added, removed, or changed? Here's your opportunity.

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