KC Council committee endorses more stringent ethics rules

Proposed ethics rules would give the public a fresh peek every three months at who is making what gifts to which members of the Kansas City Council.

The council’s Finance and Ethics Committee on Wednesday endorsed the first major revision to the city’s ethics code since the 1990s. It goes to the full council on May 23 for a vote.

“This gives the public more confidence that we are maintaining the standards that they expect of us,” finance committee Chairwoman Jan Marcason said.

One of the key changes would require council members to file disclosures on a quarterly basis with the city clerk. Those disclosures would list any gift over $200 — no one could accept anything worth more than $1,000 — from any person or business entity involved in legislative or administrative activity with the city.

Currently, the disclosures are due only once a year, and there is no legal limit to gifts that council members can accept.

Marcason said that City Council members generally don’t get gifts of money, jewelry or other valuables. The most common gifts are tickets to charity events or concerts. The new code wouldn’t require disclosure of tickets to events in city facilities such as the Sprint Center, Kemper Arena or the Music Hall but would require disclosure of tickets from promoters or groups to non-city facilities such as the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts or Kauffman or Arrowhead stadiums.

More frequent disclosure was one of the recommendations of Mayor Sly James’ Commission on Ethics Reform. That group met for months in 2011 and proposed a variety of ways to strengthen the city’s ethics rules, including calling for a specific ethics compliance officer in the city.

The new code would require an ethics compliance officer, although that person has not yet been identified.