Chairperson Martha Barnett said something at the City’s Ethics Advisory Panel that a number of citizens have known for a long time: “We need more transparency and accountability in this digital age.”
With that, the members of the Panel spent over two hours reaching consensus on major changes to the current rules and laws that regulate the ethics of City Commissioners.
The Panel agreed that City Commissioners and candidates should be required to file financial disclosure information that goes beyond current state and local law. Currently, elected officials and candidates are required to file Form 1. However, the Panel wants more information.
Former Commissioner Debbie Lightsey, in an earlier appearance before the Panel, stated that Form 1 “was merely a mechanism for officials to pretend that they are engaging in disclosure while in fact disclosing very little.”
The Panel will move forward with a recommendation to require more financial disclosure.
The Panel also proposed expanding requirements on how elected officials disclose business relationships at the time of votes. The Panel’s approach will require City Commissioners to disclose conflicts and business relationships that have existed prior to a vote, not only on the day of a vote, as is current law. The Panel is considering a 12-month time period.
The Panel reached consensus on new rules that will implement post-employment restrictions on City Commissioners. The Panel wants to prevent elected officials from using their insider knowledge for personal gain. The new rules will place restrictions on who and when elected officials can have business relationships with after they leave office.
The next meeting is May 29th at City Hall and is structured to get public input on the Panel’s proposals.