Final hearing set for city government's ethics bill

May 25, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

The City Council moved one step closer last night to final passage of a wholesale revision of city government's ethics law.

The bill, titled "Ethics - Raising the Bar," calls for applying the law's financial disclosure requirements to 1,450 city employees, an increase of 430 people from the current law.

Last night, council members debated whether the bill went too far by requiring certain council staff to file those forms with the city's ethics board.

Councilman Robert W. Curran proposed amending the law to eliminate the council's executive secretary, chief clerk and nonclerical council services employees from the list. He argued that those jobs do not entail "formulating policy" and would not be open to influence by gifts.

Council President Sheila Dixon disagreed.

"They have access to things we don't even have access to," Dixon said.

Curran's amendment failed by a vote of 14-4, with one council member absent. The council then agreed to move the bill to its final hearing June 7.

One of the bill's revisions would broaden the range of family relatives who would be covered by certain prohibitions.

Currently, the city's ethics law prohibits public officials from participating in financial matters, including hiring, relating to their "parent, spouse, brother, sister or minor child." The proposed revision would include adult child, step-parent, step-sibling, sibling-in-law, stepchild, foster child, parent-in-law, grandparent and grandchild.

The Board of Ethics ruled in October that three council members violated ethics law by employing siblings as assistants. Other council members employed adult children. At the time, many council members expressed confusion about the law.

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