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Longmont Council looks at shoring up ethical complaint process

Council workshops where complaints against members could be directed, investigated and addressed
Longmont City Council.

Longmont City Council still has many specifics to address, but all seemed open to establishing a process for what happens when an ethics complaint is raised against a member of council.

Mayor Joan Peck brought up the topic previously, with the council discussing the mechanics of what the process might look like during a workshop Tuesday.

Currently, there is not much of a formal process if an ethics complaint is raised against a city council member. As a self-policing body, council also has little power to do much if one of their members is found to have committed an ethical violation, with the only form of recourse being censure from the council.

Peck initially pitched an ethics board, but Mayor Pro Tem Aren Rodriguez suggested an outside individual take on the task instead — preferably one with background experience in investigation. Most board members liked that idea more than a standing ethics board.

“I think being a self-policing body is not particularly useful,” Rodriguez said. “Especially with censure being the heaviest repercussion we can allow as a self policing body.”

The big question that wasn’t answered Tuesday was phrased by a few council members as, “So, what?” All agreed that if an ethics violation is found, the council should be able to enforce some sort of consequence beyond just censure.

Peck emphasized that it was also important to her that a council member accused of an ethical violation has a chance to respond.

“I think having a council person accuse another council person without having any way to have a discussion with the accused is wrong,” she said. “It is just wrong. Then to have two or three council people decide what happens — we can’t self police that way.”

Others wanted more training about the ethical violations council members should avoid. While all are aware that they should avoid financial conflicts, Councilmember Marcia Martin thought it would be useful to train members on other issues to avoid.

“The real temptation is violating the chain of command,” she said. That’s a real danger for us because we are so sensible and open about access to staff.”

The discussion only lasted for about 30 minutes with nothing finalized, but the discussion will likely come back to council to iron out further details. All council members expressed an openness to continuing the discussion.