That’s the front page headline of the El Paso Inc. this weekend. Here’s what it says:
Members of the city’s Ethics Review Commission have been waiting impatiently for City Council to consider revisions the the city’s ethics code that the commission completed seven months ago.
. . .
One major recommendation would allow the nine-member commission – with a super majority vote by two third of its members – to consider a complaint that the city attorney or outside legal counsel had rejected.
But Mayor Dee Margo hasn’t decided whether he wants to let City Council consider the proposed changes or to call for a complete revision of the ordinance, which was rewritten in 2009.
“The bottom line is I haven’t made a decision,” Margo said. “It’s not that we don’t think it’s important. We think it’s very important, but I’m going to do it right.”
Yeah, let’s not rush into it. It’s only been seven months. Mayor Margo is still looking for a loophole. What kind of changes are we talking about, anyway?
In addition to allowing the commission to consider a complaint that the city attorney’s office determines is not an ethics code violation or the goes beyond the the commission’s jurisdiction, the commission has recommended:
Allowing the Ethic Commission to hire its own attorney under certain circumstances
Allowing complaints that have been dismissed by the city attorney or outside legal counsel to be appealed to the Ethics Review Commission.
And there’s a couple of other expanded prohibitions on lobbying, which are mainly moot, because the real lobbyists don’t register anyway.
But how about those changes I listed? The Ethics Commission doesn’t think that it’s cool to let the City Attorney have the last word on whether or not the City Manager, her boss, has committed an ethics violation.
What if the City Attorney decided that the City Manager may have committed some ethical infraction, minor or otherwise? She’s supposed to call him out, and then go into work with him the next day?
Recalling the city’s expense to hiring outside counsel to help with the [City Manager Tommy] Gonzalez and [former city representative Larry] Romero cases, Margo said the last thing he wants to see is the commission hiring an outside law firm to take on the city at the city’s expense.
“If you have a good ethics ordinance, I don’t know that you have to go out and hire outside counsel and spend $100,000,” he said. “I mean give me a break. That’s not the point of an ethics ordinance.”
Yet Mayor Margo is perfectly cool with spending $2,000,000 on lawyers to fight for an $180,000,000 arena that El Pasoans don’t want and don’t need and that no one can rationally justify.
If the City isn’t interested in enforcing an ethics ordinance, it doesn’t matter how good the ethics ordinance is. And letting the City Attorney have the final say on whether her boss has crossed the line is just like having no ethics ordinance at all.