Casper City Council: More Time Needed to Review Proposed Ethics Policy
Casper City Council members said at a work session on Tuesday they want more time to look at a proposed ethics policy.
Mayor Charlie Powell said the issue will be placed on the agenda of the Aug. 27 meeting.
Last year, the council repealed its code of ethics because of outdated language and it was ambiguous in places, but it anticipated adopting a new code, according to the agenda for the work session.
City Attorney John Henley drafted a proposed code based on the state's "Ethics and Disclosure Act," with the focus on municipal government, he wrote in a memo to City Manager Carter Napier.
It expands the nepotism and conflict of interest provision from family members to include people cohabiting with a council member or employee, Henley wrote.
The state law authorizes cities to investigate "for cause" allegations and potentially remove a person from office for "incompetency, neglect or duty or otherwise for cause," according to the proposed code.
The proposed code includes these provisions:
- Public officials, officials and employees are forbidden using their office for private benefit.
- They shall not help family members or cohabitants get employment, appointment, promotion, transfer or advancement. Likewise they shall not manage a family member or cohabitant who is an official or employee of the city.
- They shall not use public funds, time, personnel, facilities or equipment for their own or another's private benefit.
- While the city recognizes council members represent their constituencies, they shall abstain from decisions that conflict with their personal interests, except for tax reductions affecting the general public.
- They may not vote or take an official action that affects a person with whom they are negotiating for prospective employment.
- Violating any of these provisions may be sufficient to terminate an employee's employment, censure or removal from office or position.
Powell said there's no hurry to approve the code of ethics because the city has been operating without one for a year and this it will require a lot of discussion.
Besides that, the council needs to consider unintended consequences, Powell said.
One concern of the last code of ethics was that a majority of council members could band together and use a code of ethics as a weapon to sanction another council member they don’t like, he said.
Council members Ken Bates and Mike Huber agreed.
"We need to have everybody on board," Huber said. "We don't want this rushed."
On the other hand, council member Bob Hopkins said the council does a disservice to the city's residents without an ethics code.
The council also has a legal obligation to adopt a code of ethics, he said.