Thursday, July 10, 2014

Joining Forces - Council Considers Interlocal Municipal Commission


The Provo Council recently discussed the advantages and disadvantages of joining several nearby cities in participating in a proposed interlocal municipal ethics commission to review complaints or issues which may arise in the city relative to the state’s Municipal Officers and Employees Ethics Act, which makes it illegal to:

1) Improperly disclose or use private, controlled, or protected information
2) Accept gifts, compensation or loans when prohibited
3) Requiring donation, payment, or service to government agency in exchange for approval when prohibited
4) Offering donation, payment, or service to government agency in exchange for approval when prohibited
5) Receiving compensation for assistance in transaction involving an agency - filing sworn statement
6) Disclosure of substantial interest in regulated business
7) Participation in transaction involving business as to which public officer or employee has interest - exceptions
8) Conflict of interests prohibited
9) inducing others to violate the act
The proposed interlocal municipal commission would be composed of three city attorneys chosen randomly by participating cities. Complaints would then be reviewed by the commission, which would submit findings and recommendations to the Municipal Council for appropriate remedy, which may include censure, reprimand, ethics training, or removal from office. 

As Provo City has not joined or formed its own commission, the city currently defers to the state established commission in matters of ethics concerning city officials. (Utah Code § 11-49-201). 

Some of the examples of advantages and disadvantages to an interlocal commission discussed by the Council, and drawn from background materials provided to Council Members are listed below. (For the full document, see here).

Advantages
  • Control over the complaint process – the participating cities would be able to keep all ethics investigations “in-house” and control public access to any investigations
  • Distribution of cost among the participating cities
  • Review of complaints by a group of individuals (3 city attorneys) familiar with the applicable laws and procedures
  • Jurisdiction over alleged violations of City ethics ordinances
  • The state commission may choose to not address the complaint
  • Disadvantages
  • Cost (city staff time and resources) 
Other Questions discussed by Council Members
  • Composition of members of the commission
  • Difficulties regarding maintenance of the commission
  • frequency of use of the commission


What Comes Next?
The Council will continue their discussion of the proposed advantages and disadvantages of both the statewide ethics commission and the proposed interlocal municipal commission at a later Council meeting.

Do you have questions or comments about the possibility of Provo joining an interlocal municipal commission?

You may leave your comments or questions for the Council as a comment on this article, or reach them directly here.