Ethics Policy Details Need To Be Examined


An intense and detailed ethics policy for the Town of Payson is being proposed that scripts much of a town councilor's and employee's actions.

It would also appear the ethics policy would apply to all of the mayor's task forces, council subcommittee members and anyone who might be part of the town's official family in some way.

It is our understanding the document is based on a similar policy in Scottsdale, a city much larger than Payson with different needs, concerns and problems.

Having an ethics policy is good business, but it also must use common sense and be scaled for Payson. As you can expect, it is full of legalese, since lawyers put the policy together for the city.

For the most part, it appears to be an acceptable policy, but there are some yellow flags, if not red flags, in some of the paragraphs.

One section of the policy says no member of a city employee's family can have any relationship with the city that might in some way profit the employee's family. A vendor could have an employee that is related to a city employee. Maybe it is a sibling, father, son or daughter who works for a business in Payson. As written, the proposed ethics policy could prohibit that town vendor from doing business with the city because of the family's relationship. In a big city there would be few conflicts, in the Town of Payson, there could be numerous conflicts, after all the Town is one of Payson's largest employers.

Another section of the policy appears to dictate what a city employee can do in the hours they are not working for the town. It places restrictions on the type of second job a town employee could accept.

Should the town of Payson, or any other employer, be able to restrict the type of second job a person could have to help earn money to pay his or her bills?

It seems that as long as that second job does not interfere with an employee's town job, jeopardize the town or put the town in a bad light, the town needs to have no say in what kind of second job an employee could accept.

One section seems to prohibit a town worker or councilperson from having his lunch or dinner purchased by a neighbor or friend who might own or work for a business that has a relationship with the town.

It is not unusual for friends who frequently socialize with each other to take turns buying each other lunch, a dinner or a beer. Would that be a violation of the ethics policy? As written, it could be and if the lunch or dinner exceeds $25, that must be reported to the town clerk.

There are many good things about the ethics policy. Much of it should be good, common sense. Quite a bit of the document spells out policies the town council must follow including sections on open meetings and political campaigns.

In going through the proposed policy, it must be remembered that we are a small town of 15,000 people; we are not Scottsdale or even Flagstaff. The ethics policy must fit the realities of small-town life, not life in a big city.

We must work to keep the small-town feeling, while ensuring that we have good town government all meshed together with good, common sense.

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