Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
The Irving City Council voted down adopting changes to the City’s ethics code, which hasn’t been amended since its adoption in 1994.
The Council voted 5-4 against the changes to the code, which applies to the Council, City staff, board and commission members, and City contractors and consultants. Council members Michael Gallaway, Roy Santoscoy, Dennis Webb, Joe Putnam and Rose Cannaday voted against. Mayor Beth Van Duyne and council members Brad LaMorgese, Thomas Spink and Gerald Farris voted for the adoption.
“We’ll have this then on our next agenda,” Van Duyne said after the vote. “We’re going to bring this back with minor adjustments.”
An ethics committee started work on updating the code in December 2011 and worked on the policy until May.
The 29-page policy, up from the City’s current five-page policy, includes specific dos and don’ts, an enforcement section and addresses topics such as gifts, political campaigns and the registration of lobbyists.
The draft adds language stating those under the policy may “not engage in or facilitate any discriminatory or harassing behavior” and also specifies that they may not “persuade or attempt to persuade any employee of the City to leave the employ of the City or to become employed by any person or entity other than the City.”
Other specific additions include prohibiting employees or officials from accepting gifts valued at more than $50. An employee or official cannot accept more than $500 in gifts in a single year, according to the draft.
Also, the draft defines a “prohibited financial interest” in a contract with the City if the employee or official or a member of their immediate family directly or indirectly owns 10 percent or more of the voting stock of the business or 10 percent of the fair market value of the business.
The draft also spells out the process for filing an ethics complaint with the City.
But public criticism pointed to the length and complexity of the changes, while Council members against the changes said they were worried about people abusing the policy and falsely accusing Council members of ethics violations.
“The state of Texas has an ethics policy that if you’re an elected official you have to abide with,” Cannaday said. “With ours, it leaves it open for abuse. We can have frivolous complaints and whether you’ve done anything or not, it’s in the news, and it’s nothing.
“That will deter anyone from running for Council,” she said. “It’s a setup.”