Ethics stay in vogue but might exit code

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A recommendation to repeal Carson City’s ethics ordinance and replace it with a resolution affirming sound government ethics gained traction Thursday, but it awaits a final vote next month.

Probable direction by the city’s Ethics Ordinance Review Committee at the next and final meeting, set for Nov. 14, became clear during Thursday’s discussion. It followed a review of the state’s ethics law, which takes precedence. The panel was formed by the Board of Supervisors, which will have final say on recommendations.

Caren Cafferata-Jenkins, committee member and executive director at the state’s Commission on Ethics, outlined conflicts and duplications in the city and state laws.

She said city code applies only when it is more restrictive. She also talked of the need for code clarity, said some definitions weren’t included, added the ordinance is “trying to fit square pegs into round holes” by including candidates, and noted the ordinance preamble doesn’t belong in an ordinance if that’s all that remains.

Two colleagues spoke for outright repeal.

“I’m not convinced that anything should be retained at all,” said Janette Bloom, one of the panel’s five members. “It’s best to avoid duplicative laws.”

Dawn Ellerbrock agreed.

Chairwoman Ande Engleman, who stressed “this is a group that believes in ethics,” talked of salvaging the preamble policy statement while saying some rewrite might be needed. But discussion about a resolution to retain such language while relying on the ethics details in state law appeared sufficient, so she charged City Manager Larry Werner and staff with bringing back a draft on pertinent code repeal and a companion resolution.

Repeal also was advocated by city Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, on hand to provide staff input. He said state law crafted over years seems to work well.

Engleman and Cafferata-Jenkins both urged continuing and intensive ethics training for city elected and appointed officials, government staff and even the public. They noted that Cafferata-Jenkins’ commission offers such training for free.

“Our philosophy,” said Cafferata-Jenkins, “is that we would rather teach than catch.”


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