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This is the place to share your experiences with and thoughts about problems faced in passing or improving municipal ethics codes, and possible solutions to these problems.

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This is the place to discuss additional conflict of interest provisions. Below are some comments added at the end of 100, but there are several more such provisions that can be found in ethics codes. What are your thoughts about and experiences with other conflict provisions? How do you think it is best to deal with city attorney conflicts when those conflicts are not dealt with clearly in their rules of professional conduct?

Additionial Comment to 100: Some codes, including the IMLA Code, make it an ethical duty to comply with laws, including criminal laws, discrimination and sexual harassment laws, and lobbying laws. The chronic violation of more minor laws and rules is also sometimes cited.

It is a difficult question whether to involve an ethics commission with every violation of law. Criminal and other undesirable activity by public servants certainly undermines the public trust in municipal government. But is the ethics process the right place to deal with such matters, or are they better dealt with by supervisors or, in the case of elected officials, by voters? The duty to comply with laws is not included here because, as long as the violation of other laws is made public, criminal and other proceedings should deal with them as well as the ethics process. However, if the violation is somehow hidden from the public, it might be appropriate for an ethics commission to make the violation public. Has anyone seen language to this effect?

I believe that cities should consider special ethical guidelines and rules for city attorneys. This is a complicated area, where it is sometimes not clear what it means to represent the city (the mayor, the council, the public interest in such things as truth, openness, ane fair process). I feel that guidelines are important not only for attorneys, who often do not recognize the special conflicts they face, but also to protect the public interest, which is harmed by city attorneys who ignore conflicts in the name of representing their client. Who their client is in each sort of instance needs to be clarified. Attorney conflicts of interest are covered by their state's disciplinary rules, but (i) these rules are enforced by lawyers rather than city residents; and (ii) these rules do not deal with the special conflicts that city attorneys are faced with. I would like to see a discussion about it, including recommended provisions to deal with the problems practitioners, both lawyers and non-lawyers, have witnessed.

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False statements are a means of unfairly manipulating a situation in one's own favor. Please share your thoughts about this problem and your experiences with attempts to solve it through an ethics code or otherwise.

100(21). Honesty in Applications for Positions

No person seeking to become an official or employee,* consultant* or contractor may make any false statement, submit any false document, or knowingly withhold information about wrongdoing in connection with employment by or service for the city.

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Many officials face a conflict every evening they have a meeting scheduled: between their obligation to attend a meeting of a board they sit on and their desire to do one of a number of different things. Many officials choose something else often enough that it has an effect on the board's effectiveness.

Please share your thoughts about this provision, and your experiences with problems involving meeting attendance and various attempts to deal with these problems.

100(20). Meeting Attendance

All members of boards and commissions are expected to attend and be prepared for meetings. It is a violation of this code to miss or come unprepared to more than a third of a board or commission's meetings in a twelve-month period.

Comment: If a member must miss or come unprepared for more than a small number of meetings, he or she should resign, whether or not his or her reasons are good ones. One can always ask to return to a position when one's health or schedule have improved.

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There is a lot of talk about courtesy in politics, but most discourtesy involves lack of respect and uncontrolled emotions on the part of officials in their relations with each other. It becomes an ethical problem when citizens are attacked in order to intimidate them and others from being involved in local politics. The conflicting interest here is central to democracy: participation in government. False personal attacks are a favorite means of decreasing participation and citizen oversight.

I've been on the receiving end myself, and it is ugly. It would not be so favored if it were clearly considered an ethical violation.

100(19). Falsely Impugning Reputation

An official or employee* may not falsely impugn the reputation of a city resident. If an official or employee* believes his or her accusation to be true, and then learns that it was false, even in part, he or she should apologize in the same forum the accusations were made. A failure to so apologize within a reasonable period of time after learning of the falseness of the accusations will create the presumption that the conduct was fully intentional.

Comment: A common way for officials to intimidate residents who speak out and to prevent others from similarly speaking out is to use their positions of respect to falsely attack people who lack such positions, and thereby destroy their reputation and the legitimacy of their arguments, so that opposition from that individual and others will lessen. This form of misuse of office is central to undermining free debate as well as citizen oversight of executive and legislative actions.

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