Friday, August 28, 2009

Got Ethics?

Three years ago, two aldermen on the City Council (both now former aldermen) persuaded their colleagues that revising the City's Code of Ethics, which was about four paragraphs long, was a worthwhile endeavor. They offered to lead citizen volunteers in a review of the code, assess what could and should be rethought and recommend changes and improvements. The project was anticipated to take ten months.

The Ethics Review Committee turned in its final report on 17 March 2008 (yes, eight) and after an ENORMOUS amount of hemming and hawing, the current City Council, nudged by Alderman Bob Zarnetske, adopted an ordinance on August 3rd 2009, creating an Ethics Commission. And Peace will guide the planet and love will fill the stars. Not so fast, Skippy.

A solicitation/application to volunteer as one of the five Ethics Commission members (with two alternates) was originally posted to the city's website on 5 August with a 'requested submission' date of last Friday, 21 August. Ira Misenheimer IV, Joseph Sastre and Gerald Wagner volunteered as did Charles Arian, Robert Davidson, Sarah Kannas, Mrs. Kenny's oldest son, and Gerald Martin. (Considering I'm an applicant, feel free to regard everything that follows as jaundiced and in no way even-handed. I know, 'and this is different from normal in what way?').

If I'm reading the tea leaves, and pulp paper products correctly, some seem to believe there can be such a thing as too much ethics. Tuesday's edition of one of the local newspapers had a story, "Only Eight Apply For Slots On New Ethics Committee For Norwich" (I hope you can still access it for free as it's quite a read) that suggests (to me) perhaps because he didn't like the results of the search for volunteers, the Mayor of Norwich wishes to try again to build a volunteer pool though he's not too specific about what his problem is with those already in the water.

There were four rules in applying. I'm trying to figure out which rule(s) the Mayor wants to change/ignore/improve as that wasn't in the news story. I'm wondering if the Mayor isn't more concerned, since the search didn't produce the results he wanted, in changing the rules and would like to take a mulligan, instead of getting a gilligan. Perhaps the Professor can make up a few more applicants out of coconuts?

I don't know if the City Council meeting Tuesday, 8 September at 7:30 (Labor Day is Monday, the 7th) will have an agenda item for an action other than creating the Ethics Commission from those who applied by the original deadline and who accepted the rules. I've never forgotten "rules are for people who don't know better", and after all these years, I really should have. I'd be a lot happier.

I'm disquieted that the application process for the Ethics Review Commission, as detailed on the municipal website, differs from what was there on Monday, before the article came out. I'm wondering by whose authority the application process was changed/ignored/improved.

I'm especially puzzled when I look at the City Council meeting minutes (albeit only a draft; pages 20 through 26) because I can't understand from reading them what the Council wanted to do in terms of an application process and deadline, an application itself (it's not in the ordinance so who created it and why?) and who is supposed to make the selection of the five members and two alternates. As a matter of fact, according to the draft minutes, "On a roll call vote, the (above) ordinance unanimously passed." Seemingly, without discussion or explanation of any kind, which is just the way we like our politics around here.

I sit in the corner in the back near the door on the right hand side facing the front of the room at Council meetings because someone needs to bear witness and keep accounts straight. I'm hoping at the next meeting I'm not back there by myself attempting my Ian Anderson impersonation "... it seems like "you're the only person sitting in the audience" (mainly because after knee replacement surgery, all that hopping up and down may not be possible and I've misplaced my flute). Break me off a piece of that ice of a new day to freshen up your beverage, because some times, I've been told, that's the best part of these meetings.
-bill kenny

No comments: