Council looks at Code of Ethics

The Montgomery City Council examined how to keep its members, public officials and employees in line when it looked at passing a Code of Ethics in January. Mayor Jean Keogh introduced the idea, saying that she and City Administrator, Steve Helget, had talked about establishing a code of conduct and values last year. Some of the standards of conduct would remind public officials and employees to not violate open meeting law, use their public position for personal gain, to secure special privileges or exemptions, or receive gifts. It would also remind decision-makers to remain independent, impartial, and accountable to the people they serve, as well as observe the highest standards of integrity in their official acts, among others. “This takes into consideration conflicts of interest and reinforces the council’s desire to not have conflicts of interest,” said Helget. Councilor Jim Mladek questioned if the city needs such a code. Keogh responded that it sets a standard of behavior and accountability to the public. She added that it would also help public officials and employees police themselves, as well as set the standards for future councils. Councilor Tim Siebsen questioned if the code was already covered by state law. Mladek added that the League of Minnesota Cities also gives cities guidelines. He agreed with Siebsen that there are already enacted common sense laws that should keep public officials in line. “I don’t see any significance with this,” he said. “I don’t see the need.” Included in the council packet were handouts on the Ethics Law, League of Minnesota Cities Template Code of Conduct and Model Statement of Values, and a sample code of ethics from the City of Karlstad. Keogh responded that the code would keep “rogue people in line.” Siebsen asked who would enforce the code and what the reprimands would be if something was broken. He then said he would like to know what is different between the proposed code and state laws for public officials and employees. The council tabled the proposal until further clarification could be presented.

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