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New city gifts policy still needs work

Council votes to send ordinance back to subcommittee

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Posted: Friday, April 18, 2014 8:45 am

Phoenix’s City Council has sent a proposed gifts policy, which has been in the works for 10 months, back to subcommittee for further review.

In 2012 the council requested a new gifts policy to be written for the city, which would apply to the council and all city board members. The council also suggested creating a Phoenix Ethics Commission to address any ethics concerns. On April 16 the gifts policy was presented to the City Council for approval and was immediately shot down.

“I have a lot of questions about the language of this ordinance,” said Councilwoman Laura Pastor, as she recommended sending the ordinance back to a city subcommittee for further vetting. “I believe it’s very vital that we do the right thing. This will not only affect us as council members, but it will affect our board members, volunteers and even businesses.”

Several members of the public encouraged the council to deny approval of the policy as presented, saying it contained too many loop holes by trying to list specific gifts.

“All ethics is is living honorably with integrity and truth using good judgment,” said Ahwatukee Foothills resident Greta Rogers. “You don’t have to have a document to tell you how to do that.”

Rogers read from a manual she received from the city when she was appointed to a city board in 2004. The manual said the City Council should maintain the utmost standards of personal integrity and not accept any gift paid for by anyone who is compensated in attempts to influence the passage of any matter that comes before the council.

“I think that’s pretty clear,” Rogers said. “It doesn’t spell out tickets, hotels, dancing girls, it doesn’t need to. You’re adults. This document is good. Live by it and follow it.”

The council voted 8 to 1 to send the policy back to subcommittee. Mayor Greg Stanton was the one who voted against the motion. He agreed that the item needed work, but suggested changing the ordinance at the meeting and voting on it then.

“When I became mayor I wanted to take a look at our ethics policy and pass a stronger ethics policy not as an indictment on any members of the council, just the opposite,” he said. “We have a great council right now, a very ethical council. I think now is the time to put in place a more significant ethics and gift policy. In fact, the goal of the item wasn’t to ban a series of things, but to make sure there is greater disclosure.”

It’s unclear how long it might take for that ordinance to go before the council again. For now, it will be sent back to the Public Safety and Veterans Subcommittee.

“This is not the ethics policy I thought we passed last year,” Councilman Sal DiCiccio said. “It definitely needs to go back. It is not clear. It is vague. It has so many gaping holes in it that it is not real. To approve this would be approving something worse than what we have right now.”

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