Response To Editorial About Ethics Policy

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As chair of the citizens' task force on ethics, I am compelled to respond to your editorial in the July 27 issue of the Roundup.

Firstly, you are correct in that we carefully studied similar policies of other municipalities with some emphasis on the policy passed by the Scottsdale City Council last year. We did this because Payson's policy, like Scottsdale's, had to conform with Arizona law.

You were incorrect in suggesting that the policy was not scaled for Payson. In fact, it was. We scaled down many things because Scottsdale's policy was indeed crafted for a larger municipality. You were also incorrect in stating that: "it is full of legalese, since lawyers put the policy together for the city." In fact, Payson's policy was drafted by five citizens, only one of whom is an attorney. Also, it is written in plain English and no one should have a difficult time understanding it.

Regarding the specific issues you raised, firstly you stated: "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."

You are referring to paragraph #10 under unacceptable conduct which states in part: "Engage in Town business-related issues that involve a member of the employee's or contract worker's family..."

Note the phrase: "Engage in Town business-related issues" which simply means that if the Town does business with a company in which an employee has a relationship, that employee should recuse him or herself from decision-making in THAT issue. IT DOES NOT PROHIBIT THE TOWN FROM DOING BUSINESS WITH THAT COMPANY OR BUSINESS. This is simply common sense in avoiding a conflict of interest that could sully the Town's reputation.

You further state that: "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." This is taken out of context. Paragraph #11 under unacceptable conduct clearly states: "Engage in outside employment, including self-employment or family businesses, when to do so conflicts with Town duties and/or responsibilities."

Note the phrase: "when to do so conflicts with Town duties and/or responsibilities" which you left out of the editorial. Once again, this is simply common sense in avoiding a conflict of interest that could sully the Town's reputation. In fact, as long as there is no conflict with an employee's duties or responsibilities with the Town, having a second job would not be considered unacceptable. In fact, that same paragraph incorporates by reference an existing personnel policy rule that governs outside employment by Town employees (Rule 19, Section 1 on Outside employment).

You go on to point out that: "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." You are referring to the paragraph entitled "Gifts" in the Code of Ethics for Elected and Appointed Officials which states in part: "Town officials are prohibited from soliciting, receiving, or accepting gifts of any kind from anyone who is engaged in a specific situation that involves the Town's decision-making or permitting processes, except as exempted below."

That same paragraph exempts gifts, including meals under $25.

Once again, note the qualifying phrase: "from anyone who is engaged in a specific situation that involves the Town's decision-making or permitting processes," which was not mentioned in the editorial.

The Town of Payson is in bad need of a comprehensive ethics policy for a variety of reasons. Firstly, and to be frank, in the not far distant past, confidence in our Town government was somewhat eroded by decisions and actions that appeared to be in the best interests of special interests and opposed to the best interests of the Town residents at large. Secondly, although we are indeed still a small town, we are no longer so small that everyone knows one another. Consequently, perceptions are guided by what we read in the newspaper or what we hear on the radio rather that by what people hear from our neighbors. One purpose of the ethics policy is to create an environment in which we avoid not only actual inappropriate behavior, but to avoid the appearance of such. This policy accomplishes that. Thirdly, by its very existence, Paysonites can have a strong sense of true confidence that our local town government is being operated as it should and that should result in a sense that we are truly proud of our leaders and those who work so diligently for our town.

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