Monroe wants public’s views on ethics code

MONROE – The City Council on Wednesday will have a public hearing on proposed changes to the city’s ethics ordinance.

“It’s vague. It’s possible to interpret in a variety of ways,” City Councilman Chad Minnick said of the current ordinance.

The ordinance prohibits city officials from participating in any council action if they or their family members have a financial interest at stake.

The law needs to be more specific and concrete, Minnick said. For example, City Council members who own businesses in town have voted on a new sign ordinance, which could be considered a violation of the ethics law, he said.

The proposed changes are intended to define what constitutes a conflict of interest more clearly by using specific examples, making the ordinance consistent with a state law.

City Councilman Mitch Ruth said the ordinance is vague in some areas, and that frustrates him. But he doesn’t support the proposed amendments because the law was created by an initiative from local residents.

“This came from citizens,” he said.

Minnick, Ruth and Councilman Ken Berger recently recused themselves from voting on whether to spend $40,000 on a study because of potential conflicts of interest. The remaining council members decided against paying for the study.

The study would have decided whether about 40 acres at the eastern end of the city could be commercially developed. Heritage Baptist Fellowship Church in Monroe wants to develop the land. Minnick’s father, Tom Minnick, is the church’s pastor.

Minnick said he should have been able to vote on the issue because neither he nor his father owns the property.

“If there’s no financial interest, there’s no conflict,” he said.

Ruth and Berger said they didn’t vote on the item because their actions would affect properties they own near the 40 acres.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or ynohara@heraldnet.com.

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