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Council addressing ethics code


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The Columbus City Council on Tuesday will discuss a proposed code of conduct for elected and appointed city officials as a companion to a proposed ethics ordinance.

At the request of the City Council, City Attorney Kelly Benjamin put together a nine-point code of conduct that calls for civility, tolerance and compromise for those serving the city.

City Council member Tim Shuffett said the code was a good starting point for the discussion. Some city workers already are bound by a similar code of conduct in the employee handbook, he said.

However, that code is not binding on elected officials, citizens appointed to city boards and committees or volunteers.

Shuffett likened it to a business establishing a code of conduct to tell employees what is expected of them.

As proposed, the code of conduct would be a resolution rather than a city ordinance. It has no provisions for penalties or sanctions against those who violate the code.

“This is somewhat of a start, obviously,” Shuffett said. “It is something that can be adjusted or modified.”

Council President Ryan Brand said the code of conduct grew out of last year’s ethics ordinance discussions.

He said with new elected officials coming into office every four years, and board members rotating out of some positions on an annual basis, it is important to have a code that can guide them in proper behavior.

Although there are no penalties in the code, Brand sees peer pressure playing an important part. Every member would be asked to sign the code and would understand a responsibility to behave accordingly, he said.

The nine points direct elected officials and appointees to demonstrate personal integrity, respect and honesty. Several points urge civility and to avoid disrespect toward the public, city staff and fellow board members.

The final point urges officials to act cooperatively,

because members “may be required, from time to time, to modify to some extent, their positions so that a decision can be reached.

Compromise in a member’s position does not indicate dishonesty or lack of integrity, but does indicate recognition of the realities involved in reaching a consensus or decision in the best interests of the community.”

“I think it is important that in the business of what we do as elected officials and in City Hall, it is not personal, it is business,” Brand said.

“In order to get done the things that we need to do, there has to be compromise. There are some people out there that I think take a disagreement to heart when I think everybody involved has the best interest of the community in mind.”

Ryan said his hope would be that the code would be brought before City Council at its Feb. 19 meeting for a vote.

Code of Conduct

Columbus City Council will discuss a code of conduct for elected officials, appointees to boards and volunteers. It contains nine elements:

Each elected official and appointee shall demonstrate the highest standards of conduct, personal integrity, respect and honesty in all of their activities in order to inspire public confidence and trust.

Each elected official and appointee shall undertake their duties in a fair and impartial manner, refraining at all times from discrimination or the dispensation of special privileges.

The provision of governmental service requires elected officials and appointees to interact with the public. No signs of partiality, prejudice or disrespect should be evident on the part of elected officials or appointees toward an individual participating in a public forum. Every effort should be made to be fair and impartial in listening to public testimony.

Elected officials and appointees are expected to treat citizens with care and respect during public hearings, committing their full attention to the speakers or any materials relevant to the topic at hand. Any comments and non-verbal expressions should be appropriate, respectful and professional. Questions by elected officials and appointees should seek to clarify or expand information.

An issue may be contentious without being hostile, degrading or defamatory. No shouting or physical actions that could be construed as threatening or demeaning is acceptable.

Elected officials and appointees should be patient, dignified, respectful and courteous to one another, those they deal with in an official capacity, and the citizens who come before them. They should refrain from using profane, indecent, or abusive language directed at another. In return, elected officials and appointees should require similar conduct of those coming before their council, board, commission or committee. No elected official or appointee shall be expected to endure personal hostility or abuse, regardless of the source.

Elected officials and appointees shall practice civility and decorum in discussion and debates.

Elected officials and appointees are expected to demonstrate, not only publicly but privately, their honesty and integrity and be an example of appropriate and ethical conduct. A member should not personally criticize other members, nor impugn their integrity. Members should treat each other with respect when discussing city issues outside of meetings, and should convey to the public their respect and appreciation for other members and their positions.

Members of each council, board, commission and committee should act as cooperatively as possible and may be required, from time to time, to modify to some extent, their positions so that a decision can be reached. Compromise in a member’s position does not indicate dishonesty or lack of integrity, but does indicate recognition of the realities involved in reaching a consensus or decision in the best interests of the community.

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