Marshfield (OnFocus) – At their July 21 meeting, Marshfield’s Finance, Budget, and Personnel Committee first discussed the possible creation of an ethics committee.
“Over the past 7-8 months, I’ve been hearing a lot about the need for an ethics ordinance,” said Alderman Ed Wagner at that time, noting that the City does have an existing generic ordinance. “What we didn’t have is an enforcement mechanism or some way or process by which claims of unethical behavior could be adjudicated.”
At their meeting Tuesday evening (August 4), the committee further discussed the subject. After being reviewed by the City Attorney, there were several changes made to the original draft.
Wagner provided an overview of the highlights and what he hoped to accomplish, while also noting that the City does have an ethic code but not necessarily an enforcement method.
“There was no ‘if you do this, this is who decides if it’s right or wrong’,” he said, adding that he opted for a more detailed model. “We’ve had experiences lately where we’ve been doing things for the first time with no guidelines. I wanted the guidelines more spelled out and conducive to allowing us to get the facts and separate truth from fiction. I do think having this kind of structure can keep us out of court cases in the long run.”
“We would ask, like many other companies do, for employees to fill out an annual conflict of interest statement to let us know what companies, if any, they are associated with that the City might do business with,” he said. “There is also a provision in here where an employee or City council member could ask the Ethics Board for a determination. They can meet in closed session and advise the employee or elected official about the propriety of it and keep it confidential.”
There is also a procedure for when a complaint is made, and if that complaint is found to have merit. Findings and conclusions would be turned over to Common Council, which would use the sanctions provided to address.
“I would like the public to know we are being as transparent as we can possibly be and that we are being transparent in government,” said Wagner. “This needs a lot more work, but I wanted you to have an overview of my thoughts.”
According to the agenda packet, the purpose of the Ethics Board would be to “provide a means to manage administration of the City’s Codes of Conduct and Ethics, and resolve complaints alleging violation of those policies in a fair, equitable, and just manner for the City of Marshfield, thereby maintaining citizen confidence in the transparency, accountability, and integrity of the City in all its dealings.”
The proposed board, according to the packet, would consist of three members, two of which would be nominated by members of the Common Council and selected by secret ballot after nominated publicly by the Council. The third member would be a member of the bar, nominated by the County Bar Association. All members would be citizens of Marshfield, unless specifically exempted by Council.
The committee will review the materials and discuss further at a future meeting.
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