Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

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Mark Kindt
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Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby Mark Kindt » Tue Dec 13, 2016 10:03 am

In this second series on Civic Accountability, I do first want to laud those who have chosen to enter public service as government employees or elected officials. I also want to acknowledge the hard-work and long-hours that go with the choice of serving the public. Further, as citizens we can all celebrate our local civic accomplishments.

As citizens, residents, voters and taxpayers in a democracy, we have the full set of skills to participate in this democracy that we, as a nation, have created. Wonder to the world that it is.

In my last series on Civic Accountability, we reviewed how the disregard of honesty, openness and transparency has actually and potentially increased the legal liability to the City and to its public officials. We went through specific examples that were documented. In fact, the documents were presented for your actual review. Our review also identified some problems in civic governance.

Considering that a former mayor was indicted and that approximately 70 public officials and other individuals in Cuyahoga County were sent down the river in recent memory, it seems quite surprising that the City of Lakewood doesn’t appear to have a vibrant and modern ethics-in-government policy.

In this series, we will explore what this means and whether we can improve the performance of our City. This is something that as citizens we can do together.

I’m sure that many of you work under codes-of-conduct in your workplaces, this will be familiar ground for all of us. I intend to just remind you what you already now or can easily learn about.


Democracy works best when citizens and public officials respect its ideals.
Mark Kindt
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Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby Mark Kindt » Tue Dec 13, 2016 4:57 pm

As citizens it is reasonable for us to expect the following basic fundamental values in our local government:

The Fundamental Values:

HONESTY AND INTEGRITY

OPENNESS

FAIRNESS

STEWARDSHIP

TRANSPARENCY

I will write separate posts on each topic. Before I do so, I also want to remind readers that many of the values are supported by actual laws. I am not dreaming this up. In Ohio, we have open meetings laws and public records access laws. As I write about each value, I will also describe how each value emerges from the goals of relevant laws.


Democracy works best when citizens and public officials respect its ideals.
Mark Kindt
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Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby Mark Kindt » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:38 am

There are major indicators that the City of Lakewood needs a formal ethics in government policy. What are they?

1. Multiple opinion letters from the Ohio Ethics Commission describing conflicts of interests.

2. A false affidavit filed in state court.

3. Material misrepresentations about the financial condition of the City potentially in violation of law.

4. Government decision-making likely in violation of Ohio open meeting laws.

5. Likely violations of the Ohio public records access laws impeding access of public review of public documents.

6. Laxity about the receipt of political contributions and the conflicts created thereby when political contributors have matters before the government.

I have already reviewed how many of these indicators have increased the City's risks of legal liability. I am not going to review political contributions issues. But note, the Master Agreement was pending before city council in December 2015. Query: Did public officials have a duty of refraining from accepting contributions from LHA board members or CCF-related individuals in the November 2015 election?

A robust government ethics policy benefits not just the public, but public officials as well.


Democracy works best when citizens and public officials respect its ideals.
Mark Kindt
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Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby Mark Kindt » Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:32 pm

Let's take a moment and review the first fundamental values that we expect from our public servants.

HONESTY and INTEGRITY

Nothing difficult about this one. As citizens, voter and taxpayers, we have the simple expectation that public employees, including those we have elected to represent us, will be honest with us and act with integrity. Just because truth has taken a nose-dive in politics, does not mean we should not expect honesty.

Honesty is expected; honesty is respected.

Yes, as citizens in a democracy, we expect an everyday, ordinary, straight-up kind of honesty. I shouldn't really even have to explain this. We all know that this is what we want. Service to the public is first built upon this rock.

That rock has its twin--Integrity. Integrity is honesty in action. Integrity reflects an honest, sincere consistency in behavior. It is honesty in action, beyond mere speech or truthfulness. It's the follow through on promises made. It's the honest apology when promises can't be met. We bring our expectations of honesty and integrity to all that we do everyday. Public service is no different.

I do not doubt that our public servants are generally committed to these same ideals. When they fall short, well, a polite reminder is always in order.

As voters, we know how politics works and how campaigns are run, but even in the political spin of the electoral season, we'd all rather hear more honesty than less. None of this is hard, is it?

To the extent that citizens are treated with dishonesty, our legal structure has some powerful feedback loops; that is, dishonesty simply increases personal legal risks.

The public servant mantled with honesty and integrity is cloaked with the grace of credibility. There is no better coin than credibility for a public employee or elected official. It was John Glenn's credibility, established across a lifetime devoted to public service that sheltered him through difficult times late in his career.

Honesty, integrity and credibility are assets to be treasured. Let's be conscious of the value of these treasures in our local civic life.


Democracy works best when citizens and public officials respect its ideals.
Mark Kindt
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Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby Mark Kindt » Wed Dec 14, 2016 2:47 pm

Let's add a couple more ethical considerations to our list above.

1. Routine government ethics policies typically address the issue of when a public employee or public official can take a job with a private employer that the official has regulated, done business with or who has received other governmental benefits.

2. To the extent that the city administration has the legal latitude to enter into sole-source or no bid contracts, it has created a structural ethical abuse risk. Hopefully, these ethical risks are managed by written policies related to procurement and relationships with contractors/vendors, etc. If you have a copy of such a written policy, please post it here.


Democracy works best when citizens and public officials respect its ideals.
Mark Kindt
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Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby Mark Kindt » Wed Dec 14, 2016 4:44 pm

And, before I go much further, I want to acknowledge the work of the City's Charter Review Commission.

The Third Amended Charter for the City of Lakewood, though not finally enacted, contains a new section on ethics in government--Section VIII.

I will integrate a discussion of that section as we go forward in reviewing various ethics-in-government issues. I will post a copy of that section soon.


Democracy works best when citizens and public officials respect its ideals.
m buckley
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Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby m buckley » Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:39 pm

Mark Kindt wrote:Let's add a couple more ethical considerations to our list above.

1. Routine government ethics policies typically address the issue of when a public employee or public official can take a job with a private employer that the official has regulated, done business with or who has received other governmental benefits.

2. To the extent that the city administration has the legal latitude to enter into sole-source or no bid contracts, it has created a structural ethical abuse risk. Hopefully, these ethical risks are managed by written policies related to procurement and relationships with contractors/vendors, etc. If you have a copy of such a written policy, please post it here.


Perhaps "Honest Dru" Siley could share his perspective on "a public employee or public official taking a job from a private employer that the official has regulated, done business with or who has received other governmental benefits."
I would find that fascinating.


" City Council is a 7-member communications army." Colin McEwen December 10, 2015.
Mark Kindt
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Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby Mark Kindt » Thu Dec 15, 2016 9:27 am

To Mr./Ms. Buckley: Thank you for your observation. However, it is my goal in this presentation to describe the problem and the nature of its cure. It has never been my intention to single out specific public employees.


Democracy works best when citizens and public officials respect its ideals.
Lori Allen _
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Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby Lori Allen _ » Thu Dec 15, 2016 9:31 am

Have you filed any complaints with any agencies that might want to investigate all this mess?


m buckley
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Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby m buckley » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:15 am

Mark Kindt wrote:To Mr./Ms. Buckley: Thank you for your observation. However, it is my goal in this presentation to describe the problem and the nature of its cure. It has never been my intention to single out specific public employees.


Mr. Kindt, I respect your intentions. Having been misled by Mr. Summers and Mr. Siley during the Drug Mart process and then again by Mr. Summers during this process, I would hope that you respect mine.

Mark Buckley.


" City Council is a 7-member communications army." Colin McEwen December 10, 2015.
Lori Allen _
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Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby Lori Allen _ » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:19 am

Could you please list the agencies that you have filed complaints with about this whole mess. Thanks.


Mark Kindt
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Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby Mark Kindt » Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:17 pm

Mr. Buckley: I fully agree that you have absolute constitutional rights both as an Ohioan and as an American citizen to discuss public policy issues here and elsewhere as you see fit. I do, Sir, respect that completely! I also respect your participation in this important dialogue. Thank you for reading this line of posts and commenting.

Ms. Allen: I have addressed your question in the other thread. Thank you.


Democracy works best when citizens and public officials respect its ideals.
Mark Kindt
Posts: 587
Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2016 11:06 am

Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby Mark Kindt » Fri Dec 16, 2016 9:03 am

The norms of government ethics are well understood. The City itself has a draft Charter that contains them. Why are these obvious standards being ignored by our public officials?

The fact that this Charter has not been officially adopted is a pretty pitiful excuse for ignoring general and well understood ethical requirements for public servants.

To the extent that professional ethical problems are being ignored (see Disclosure Problem No. 4 in "Honesty In Government I"), the situation has been demonstrated and has been aggravated by the failure to address the problem.

None of this is difficult. See for yourself. Please read the attached copy of Article Eight of the proposed Third Charter for the City of Lakewood.
Attachments
Article 8 -- Third Amended Charter.pdf
(62.9 KiB) Downloaded 28 times


Democracy works best when citizens and public officials respect its ideals.
james fitzgibbons
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Re: Civic Accountability -- Honesty in Local Government II

Postby james fitzgibbons » Fri Dec 16, 2016 12:17 pm

Whoever wrote this part of the charter must be a physic most of the important statements were not followed by Mayor and Council. Ironic.



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