The Phoenix City Council has approved a sweeping ethics reform package for elected officials that Mayor Greg Stanton says gives the city some of the toughest ethics rules in the nation.
The new policy requires council members to report any gift over $50, creates a new and independent Ethics Commission made up of current or retired state judges to enforce new rules and toughens penalties for violating ethics rules.
“Transparency and accountability are top priorities for my office because both are good for residents and good for our city,” Stanton said. “It’s important that people have confidence that decisions at City Hall are made in the public’s interest. We must be able to hold ourselves accountable so we can do what’s best for Phoenix, and that’s what we did here today.”
Transparency and ethics were one of Mayor Stanton’s major platforms when he ran for office in 2011. The mayor and City Council created an Ethics Review Task Force, chaired by Rick Romley, former Maricopa County Attorney, in August of 2012 to review best practices and create an ethics manual for elected officials. The task force came up with 27 recommendations in all. The items voted on by council would take effect in December of 2014.
According to Stanton’s memo to the City Council, council members must disclose any gifts valued at more than $50. Those disclosures must be reported monthly and will be available online. Many council members asked for a complete gift ban, which city staff will look into.
The commission will have the ability to investigate complaints and make recommendations to the City Council. They will not be compensated. The council asked that the independent commission be balanced by gender and party lines.
To enforce the standards five yes votes from the City Council would be needed to impose any of five possible penalties including admonishment, reprimand, censure, reimbursement of city investigation cots up to $10,000 and even removal from office. City staff is investigating how the city’s charter might need to change to allow voters to recall an elected official from office due to ethical violations.
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