Mustang City Council looks at Code of Ethics and Conduct
By Daniel Lapham,
At a special City Council work session meeting on Aug. 11, the Mustang City Council and staff discussed the possibility of implementing a “Council Code of Ethics and Conduct.”
City Manager Tim Rooney presented two examples of current civic “Code of Ethics” standards. The reception from council members was mixed. As of Monday, Rooney said no further action would be pursued.
“There were two different ‘Council Code of Ethics’ presented to the City Council for discussion purposes,” Rooney said. “As a result of the discussion that occurred on Monday evening last week, staff has no plans for action on any Council Code of Ethics unless directed to do so by the City Council.”
Rooney told the council he and staff looked through records of the council and were unable to find a standing code of ethics or conduct.
“I believe many of the issues we have had in the past with social media and conflict between council members could be addressed through a code of ethics and conduct. I believe a code of ethics would instill guidelines and inform the community what they can expect from their council members.”
Ward V Councilwoman Linda Hagan said she does not believe the council needs a code of ethics. She said the oath of office, taken by every elected official, outlines his or her ethics and beyond that freedom of speech should be protected.
“I am not in agreement with adopting a code of ethics,” Hagan said.
Ward VI Councilman Jess Schweinberg said a code of ethics could be a positive step in outlining a standard model of public official behavior and conduct.
“You have to have standards set,” he said. “We are supposed to be setting the groundwork for out future generations. I see how this could be helpful.”
Mayor Jay Adams said at this point he would like council members to take time to think about the possibility. Action may be taken down the road.
“This could be valuable in the future. This brings up some questions. Should the council have a way to hold council members accountable for their words and actions?”
MUSTANG CITY COUNCIL
CODE OF ETHICS AND CONDUCT
Compliance with all Laws
City Council members shall comply with the laws of the United States, the State of Oklahoma and the City of Mustang in the performance of their public duties. Such laws include but are not limited to: the United States and State of Oklahoma Constitutions, the City of Mustang Charter, laws pertaining to conflicts of interest, election campaigns, financial disclosures, open meeting law, open records law, the City of Mustang Code of Ordinances and all policies adopted by the City Council.
Integrity and Accuracy
City Council members are expected to perform their duties with absolute integrity. No member of the City Council shall under any circumstances make a statement for any purpose that is known by the member to be inaccurate or intended to be misleading
Conduct of Members
It is acceptable and expected that City Council members may disagree about issues brought before the Council. However, it is not acceptable for any City Council member to make derogatory comments and gestures about other Council members, their opinions or their actions. City Council members shall refrain from exhibiting abusive conduct, personal allegations or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other members of the City Council, members of City boards or commissions, the staff and the public.
The professional and personal conduct of City Council members should be above reproach and shall avoid even the appearance of impropriety. City Council members should conduct their official and personal affairs in such a manner that does not in any way suggest that they may be improperly influenced in the performance of their official duties. City Council members shall, to the best of their ability, serve the citizens of the City of Mustang conscientiously and with honesty and impartiality. City Council members shall seek to perform their duties with diligence, efficiency and courtesy. Members of the City Council shall each make impartial decisions based upon consideration and analysis of the facts, circumstances, merits and laws of each case without taking into account unrelated considerations.
Electronic Devices During Meetings
In the spirit of the Open Meeting Act and in furtherance of the City Council’s commitment to conducting government business with as much order and transparency as possible, electronic devices belonging to a Councilor shall be turned off or set on airplane mode during City Council meetings. Use of electronic devices by City Council members for talking, texting, email or otherwise during City Council meetings is, except for emergency communications, prohibited. It is the City Council’s intent to prohibit electronic communications between members of the Council and other persons during City Council meetings. Prohibiting communications of this type enables the Council to operate with maximum transparency and allows the Council to avoid any appearance or perception of engaging in discussions or deliberations not open to the public during City Council meetings.
Respect for Process
City Council members shall perform their duties with the processes and rules of order established by the City Council. Upon a “Call to Order” of the City Council meeting, Councilors will respect that a meeting is in progress and recognize that it is inappropriate to temporarily exit the meeting unless a recess or adjournment has been called by the mayor. While a meeting is in progress, Council members should refrain from having “side bar” conversations with each other or with city staff.
City Council members have the right to personally endorse candidates for all City Council seats and other elected offices. However, it is inappropriate to mention endorsements during City Council meetings or other official City meetings or hearings.
City Council members shall prepare themselves for discussions of public issues brought before the City Council. City Council members will listen courteously and attentively to all discussion and comment on the issue by the public, City staff and other City Council members. City Council members shall refrain from interrupting other speakers unless compelled to do so to ensure compliance with City Council policies or processes for public meetings and shall additionally refrain from interfering with the orderly conduct of City Council meetings.
All City Council meetings and hearings shall be conducted fairly and impartially. City Council members shall not show favoritism in carrying out the City’s business. The receipt of campaign contributions shall not in any circumstance constitute a basis for preferential treatment.
Acting in the Public Interest
The primary goal and concern of each member of the City Council is to serve the public interest and uphold the public trust to the very best of their abilities. Therefore, City Council members will work together for the common good of the citizens of Mustang and not for any private or personal interest, and City Council members will strive to assure fair and equal treatment of all persons, claims, issues or transactions brought before the Mustang City Council.
Conflict of Interest
Any member of the City Council who has a conflict of interest, financial or otherwise, in any matter brought before the City Council for consideration or action shall declare and disclose the conflict of interest to the City Council and shall not participate in discussion or voting on the matter. A conflict of interest shall be defined as a statutory conflict of interest or any situation, circumstance or financial interest that has the potential, in the City Councilor’s opinion and judgment, to interfere with the proper exercise of public duty.
The minutes of a meeting wherein a declaration of a conflict was made shall not record a vote on behalf of a City Council member who leaves the room during discussion and voting upon the issue. The minutes of such meeting shall, however, record a “no” vote if the City Council member remains in the room and abstains from voting, such recordation being in accordance with Oklahoma State Law and the Mustang Code of Ordinances.
Gifts and Favors
City Council members shall not directly or indirectly solicit, receive or accept any gift if 1) a reasonable inference could be drawn that the gift was intended to influence them in the performance of their official duties, or, 2) the gift is intended to serve as a reward or in appreciation of any official action taken by the City Council member. City Council members shall not solicit or accept any gifts, favors or promises of future benefits which might compromise the independent judgment and action or which might give the appearance of being compromised. City Council members shall not take special advantage of services or opportunities for personal gain, by virtue of their public offices that are not available to the public in general.
City Council members shall not provide testimonials or endorsements that identify themselves as city council members to any political candidate, business, program or other entity or activity unless brought to a vote before the City Council and approved by a majority of the seated Council members. Personal endorsements or opinions without prior Council approval should make clear that they in no way reflect the official position of the City Council or the City of Mustang.
Political Fundraising Activities
No City Council member shall use his or her position, authority or influence, whether actually possessed or anticipated, to interfere with or affect the results of an election or to obtain a political or other type contribution. City Council members shall not use or attempt to use any political endorsement in connection with any appointment to any City board or commission.
These rules are not intended to preclude City Council members from political fundraising activities, but to ensure that these activities are undertaken only at private initiative and expenses in their role as private citizens and thus do not reflect upon the official activities of the City.
City Council members shall endeavor to share with all other councilors in timely manner any substantive information that is relevant to a matter under consideration by the City Council which was received by the Council member from sources external to the public decision-making process.
City Council members shall respect and preserve the confidentiality of information concerning the property, personnel or affairs of the City. City Council members shall neither disclose confidential information without proper legal authorization nor use such information in any way to advance or further their personal, financial or private gain. Confidential Information shall not include any information that is or becomes publicly available other then as a result of disclosure by Recipient, which is disclosed by any third-party not known by Recipient, and who Recipient has no reason to believe to be under any contractual or fiduciary obligation not to disclose such information; was in the Recipient’s possession prior to disclosure, or is independently developed by the Recipient.
City Council members shall represent the official policies or positions of the City Council to the best of their ability when designated as delegates or representatives of the City. If a City Council member acting as a delegate or representative of the City presents their personal opinions or positions on such an issue the member shall explicitly state that their comments do not represent the City of Mustang or the City Council.
Policy Role of City Council Members
City Council members shall respect and adhere to the Council–Manager form of municipal government implemented in the City of Mustang through its charter and as outlined in Title 11 of the Oklahoma Statutes. The Council–Manager form of government provides for the City Council to determine all matters of policy for the City of Mustang. Additionally, the Council–Manager form of municipal government provides that the City Manager shall be responsible for all day-to-day operations of the City. Accordingly, City Council members shall not interfere with or impair the ability of the City Manager and other City staff to determine and implement day-to-day operational matters.
Implementation of Code of Ethics and Conduct
This Code of Ethics and Conduct is intended to be self-enforcing by members of the City Council. City Council members shall be thoroughly familiar with this Code and shall make every reasonable effort to adhere to its provisions. The Code of Ethics and Conduct shall be included in the orientation training for newly elected City Council members. All City Council members shall sign a statement affirming they have read and understand the City of Mustang Code of Ethics and Conduct.
Daniel Lapham is a reporter with the Mustang News sister paper, the El Reno Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org