This past April, Lee’s Summit voters overwhelmingly approved all 12 amendments to our City Charter.
One of the amendments, which passed with more than 70 percent of the vote, asked residents to consider a revision that requires the City Council to author and adopt an ethics code.
Specifically, it read: “Shall the Charter of the City of Lee’s Summit be amended to include a new Section 3.15., Charter Violation and Ethics Code., requiring the adoption of an ethics code by the City Council, and allowing sanctions to be imposed upon a City Councilmember only upon a 2/3rds vote of the entire Council including the Mayor?”
While many of the Charter changes mandated by the voters have gone into effect since April, this one still lingers, seemingly vexing some council members as to how it should read and what exactly it should accomplish.
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Admittedly, enacting other Charter revisions such as the feature that required electronic voting or a lapse of seven days between introduction and final passage of an ordinance are much simpler to put in place than a comprehensive ethics policy.
Still, the fact remains that an ethics policy was recommended by the Charter Review Commission and approved by the voters more than eight months ago.
If it were some legitimate reason this policy hasn’t been adopted by council yet, we could be more understanding. But there’s not. It’s pure politics and political maneuvering that is keeping us from an affirmative vote.
The ethics policy left the Rules Committee a few months ago with a sweeping 4-0 vote, but was removed from the City Council agenda on the Nov. 1 meeting by council member Phyllis Edson. Fortunately, it reemerged at the Dec. 7 council meeting. Regrettably, it was beaten, bullied and bruised by a few council members who ultimately sent it to a 5-3 demise.
Keep in mind that two of those council members — Edson and newcomer Fred DeMoro (who was also a District 4 representative on the Charter Commission, along with myself, a District 1 member) — voted against the first reading of the ethics policy Dec. 7 after previously voting for it at Rules Committee.
Somewhere between then and now, something was lost in translation, someone got upset at the process or any number of things seemed to go haywire.
The discussion at council by some of the five that voted against moving it to second reading — Edson, DeMoro, Diane Seif, Dave Mosby and Craig Faith — centered around how “punitive” or punishing the ethics policy reads. My question is, why even create an ethics policy if there are not going to be consequences?
The whole notion that this ethics policy could be used by those not elected or outside the scope of the office to retaliate or punish anyone is simply ludicrous. In fact, it’s equally absurd to think that would happen inside the circle of political colleagues. It’s a red herring meant to distract from the real issue, which seems to be some council members simply don’t want to pass a policy that the voters approved.
The task is in front of you, City Council. If there are procedures or committee matters you don’t like, disagree with or simply can’t get behind, please work those out before votes of this magnitude occur.
Not even sending the ethics policy to a second reading leaves it in limbo now. Does it go to committee? Is it dead? How could that even be possible since voters approved this Charter measure?
Pass the ethics policy that will live on longer than you are in office. We’re supposed to be looking decades down the road, not just days.
Lee’s Summit resident John Beaudoin writes about city and civic issues, people and personalities around town. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.