North Texas Daily

City Council works to revise city charter’s ethics sections

City Council works to revise city charter’s ethics sections

City Council works to revise city charter’s ethics sections
September 28
20:16 2016

A discussion by the city council on changing the city charter addressed conflicts of interest at their Tuesday afternoon session.

City attorney Anita Burgess presented the possible changes that could happen to the charter, which acts as a local constitution and is voted on by residents. The two sections in the charter that require review are section 14.04, regarding personal interest and conflict of interest standards on local officials, and 14.05, which imposes limitations on appointment and employment of people related to council members.

These two provisions are the highest laws in Denton, and are enacted by citizens.

“We are emphasizing the charter should set a foundation, it should not be a conflict or a problem,” Burgess said. “Have your charter set a foundation. We want to acknowledge citizens.”

The current city charter, which was first introduced on Feb. 24, 1959, has been changed multiple times since then, but recent concerns about a lacking ethics ordinance, paying council members, and not having a city auditor have raised some eyebrows.

Having a subcommittee for an ethics ordinance was suggested by councilwoman Kathleen Wazny, and other members agreed.

“The ethics issue is long and deep and a lot. If I had a magic wand, I would put an ethics ordinance up today,” Wazny said. “I also work 50-plus hours a week as do others on council. It’s something to look at, but my heartburn is there is no ethics ordinance. Some people have to choose: ‘do I run for city council or work a full time job?'”

Councilman Dalton Gregory said there should be a charter committee, and suggested to change other things within city council to benefit members.

“The bar is set too low for recall elections, looking at the last election,” Gregory said. “We should also reconsider the current four single-district seats and three At-Large seats, there should be one At Large, being the mayor. The terms should also be two, three-year terms instead of three, two-year terms.”

The three At Large seats include the mayor, place 5 and place 6, with the single seats being for districts one, two, three and four.

In the city council election this past May, there was a recall vote in the polls for councilman Joey Hawkins, who agreed with Gregory’s change to the rule.

“The bar for recall vote is too low, it hits me personally,” Hawkins said. “I want a diverse council, and I am all for a pay, if it is when I am on council or not. I am also willing to look at one At Large and six single-district seats.”

Councilwoman Bagheri, who is famously known for wanting transparency in the city government, agreed with what Gregory had to say about the change in seats and terms.

“Including an auditor is a must,” Bagheri said. “There should also be a salary for city council members, and obviously ethics too.”

Mayor Chris Watts was the last to speak in the discussion, and he agreed with everyone else’s ideas.

“We have changed a lot as a city, and we will continue to change,” Watts said. “I am not afraid to move forward if it is comprehensive to the ordinance. I am all in favor of moving forward.”

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Julia Falcon

Julia Falcon

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