Dexter Council Considers Final Draft of Ethics and Conflict of Interest Ordinance

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By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

Accountability for Dexter’s government has become more defined.

At its October 25, 2021 meeting, the Dexter City Council considered a final draft of an Ethics and Conflict of Interest Ordinance. The Council has been working the past year on forming the ordinance required by the City Charter (Section 5.06).

Mayor Keough opened a hearing to get public comment on the ordinance. With no public comment forthcoming, the hearing was closed, and the Council discussed the final draft. After a short discussion, the Council voted unanimously to adopt the new ordinance.

The ordinance includes the following highlights, paraphrased for this article. An edited copy of the final draft can be found in the Council’s meeting packet beginning on page 12.

In its opening declaration, the ordinance expresses the spirit of the policy, stating, “The principal policy expressed herein, which forms the foundation of this Ordinance, is to encourage individual internal commitment and motivation to act ethically and to maintain a work environment which supports integrity. This requires public servants to recognize that the primary reason they hold a public position is to serve the public, and that the public’s trust in government and in them is diminished when any public servant acts unethically. Also, to further the public trust, all public servants should treat all citizens of the local community with courtesy, impartiality, fairness, and equality under the law.”

The ordinance defines prohibited actions, which would result in unethical behavior and a conflict of interest if conducted.

  1. Using public office or employment for private gain or giving or accepting preferential treatment as a result thereof.
  2. Expressing personal opinion as that of the City of Dexter.
  3. Using public resources, property, and funds for personal gain or benefit, including city assets for political purposes.
  4. Accepting any gift, loan of money, goods, or services related to the recipient’s public position but not directly used for city business.
  5. Engaging in a business transaction in which they may profit due to confidential information obtained from their public position.
  6. Accepting employment that is incompatible or in conflict with the execution of their official duties.
  7. Representing the city with any organization with which the public servant is directly involved, employed, or has a beneficial interest.
  8. Using their position to obtain special consideration or preferential treatment.
  9. Discussing or voting on any matter for an organization with which they are directly involved.
  10. Engaging in conduct that qualifies as a conflict of interest.
  11. Failing to disclose a beneficial interest in any matter before the city and failing to recuse themselves from decisions regarding such issues.

The ordinance outlines exceptions:

  1. Negotiating a bargaining agreement between the city and a labor union to which the public servant belongs according to state or federal law.
  2. Contributions to political campaigns which are governed by state or federal law.
  3. Employment or other pursuits that do not interfere with the discharge of their public duties.
  4. Benefiting from lawful city actions when the public servant’s benefit is the same as the public to whom the benefit is provided.

Public servants are expected to be immediately forthcoming with any conflict of interest and recuse themselves from discussion and action regarding the matter. Members of councils, boards, or commissions who violate the ordinance’s provisions will receive disciplinary action deemed appropriate by the City Council. Employees, contractors, or consultants found in violation of the regulation will be subject to discipline deemed appropriate by the City Manager.

Photo: Doug Marrin

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