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Topic: When will Flint have an ethics committee?

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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Opinion
Wednesday Editorial: Public officials should heed the lessons of ethics training




By the Times-Union editorial board
Posted Oct 18, 2017 at 6:04 PM
Working or volunteering for city government gives you no personal or business advantages. In fact, it can be a disadvantage.

Thats the word from Jacksonvilles ethics expert, Carla Miller. She has spent about 20 years in the ethics field in Jacksonville and has built a state and national reputation.

Now the city is lucky to have her advice on ethics. If city officials are smart, they will consult her and stay out of trouble.

That is Millers job.

Shes glad to help.

ETHICS OF FOUNDERS

Miller referred to the Athenian Oath:

We will never bring disgrace on this our city by an act of dishonesty or cowardice. We will fight for the ideals and Sacred Things of the city both alone and with many. We will revere and obey the citys laws, and will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those above us who are prone to annul them or set them at naught. We will strive unceasingly to quicken the publics sense of civic duty. Thus, in all these ways, we will transmit this city not only, not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.

The Constitution even includes an anti-corruption provision, Article 1, Section 9, the emoluments clause. That forbids any person holding any public office from accepting any gift from any king, prince or foreign state.


This supposedly was a reaction to Ben Franklin accepting a diamond-encrusted snuff box from the king of France, which caused a public uproar.

TWO MAJOR RULES

The first rule of ethics is transparency.

The second rule is if in doubt, ask.

Miller, a former federal prosecutor, knows where the traps are located. So last week, the Times-Union editorial page watched and listened as Miller conducted an hourlong ethics training session for city workers and board members.

She handed out a list of 10 ethics danger signs.

Here is the list (along with our commentary):


Dont accept anything of value for yourself or family. If gifts are valued at over $100, it can be illegal. Its OK to take gifts from relatives, though. The rules arent meant to be ridiculous.

Keep it simple by not accepting anything and graciously say thanks but its not allowed.

Youre a public servant, not a public taker.

Dont ask for anything, not gifts or favors for you or your family. If there is gray area, ask Miller.

Keep all records of public business. That includes documents, emails, even text messages. Floridas public records law is designed to give the people access to the work of government.

Dont misuse your position. This may seem to be a broad statement, but you know it when you see it. Do you know who I am? is beyond unethical for any public official to ever utter. Never say anything like that.

You could be in trouble if you or your family do business with the city. Potential conflicts of interest should be revealed (Rule No. 1). Ask for a ruling from Miller or a lawyer in the Office of General Office (Rule No. 2).


If it appears you have used your position for personal, family or business gain, then there may be an ethics issue. This would include voting on an issue that may be a conflict of interest.

It shouldnt have to be stated, but taking a bribe in return for favors is a no-no.

Members of public boards and commissions may not talk about business that come before them without scheduling a meeting with proper notice in a place convenient to the public with minutes being taken. People on the same board or commission can talk about any other matter, just not their public business.

Some say this is inefficient and inconvenient, but government in Florida is meant to give the people a chance to be involved. In the long run its likely to produce better decisions with more public support.

And the fact is Floridas public records and open meetings laws include more than 1,100 exemptions. So there are reasonable ways to amend the law for valid reasons.

WARNING SIGNS

You can send an email to board members, but you cant ask for feedback within that chain. The public needs to have the ability to participate.


You can talk to staff about board business, but you cant use staff as an intermediary to avoid a public discussion.

Notices of meetings should be sent at least 24 hours before a meeting, but three days early is better.

Someone must take minutes of a noticed meeting. State law does not require these meetings be recorded. And the minutes must be more than simply a repetition of the meeting announcement.

Avoid the appearance of avoiding the law, such as chatting or texting with fellow board members during an actual meeting.

The public must have the chance to comment on an issue. While there are limits to this, its best practice that if people have taken the time to attend a meeting, they should be given a chance to address the board.

The bottom line of Floridas Government in the Sunshine Law is that government is conducted for the people and not for public officials.

As for volunteer board members, Miller talked about the psychological trait in which people want to get along so strongly that they often are afraid to speak up.

This can be in a civil matter or even in the form of a question, but it is surprising to see how talented and successful people suddenly go quiet on boards and commissions. It just takes one person with courage to say something, Miller said.

In short, public officials can never go wrong if they view their positions with grace, the public with respect and their obligation to be transparent with a true sense of responsibility.
Post Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:57 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

s.

‎Terry Bankert‎ to Flint Water Class Action Group
4 hrs Flint, MI
A FIGHT FOR THE SOUL OF FLINT.

We Citizens of Flint do not trust our local government. But why are we quiet.

We have a new charter to improve that trust. It takes leaders not predators to make that happen.

But our Mayor and City Council will not implement it why! Untransparent. Unaccountable. Undiverse. Above the law. Anti good Government.

An underlying reason is the Rasputin like Control Eric Mays appearing to have over the Mayor and City Council.

It is time for this come to and end.

The Charter became effective 1/1/18 (31+28 )=60 Days Old on 2/28/18.

The Flint City Council and the Mayor of Flint are intentionally violating the law The Flint City Charter.

HOW MUCH LONGER!

We are collectively being treated with disrespect by our Mayor and Flint City Council.

A hundred of you are asked to write letters to the attorney General. Tell him what is happing on the Charter issue. Ask him to start a mandamus action. Post your letters here.

This is your City you have a duty to act.

@TerryBankert Flint Family Law Attorney 235-1970 and Former Flint Ombudsperson.
Post Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:16 am 
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