Mayor Still Sitting on Ethics Revisions

Remember this story from the March 19 El Paso Inc.?

Members of the city’s Ethics Review Commission have been waiting impatiently for City Council to consider revisions to the city’s ethics code that the commission completed seven months ago.

The proposed changes are intended to address problems in the Ethics Code that the commission encountered in 2016 when it received complaints against City Manager Tommy Gonzalez and former city Rep. Larry Romero.

One major recommendation would allow the nine-member commission – with a super-majority vote by two-thirds 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.”

“. . . or I’m not going to do it at all,” he probably meant to add.

Really, what’s the rush? Why should City Government be all of a sudden concerned with ethics? What does that word mean, anyway? What is this ethics they speak of?

“I understand that this is not an utmost important item on the mayor’s agenda, and I have no fault with that,” [Ethics Commission Chairman Stuart] Schwartz said. “But I would like to see some resolution of these matters and would really like to see it happen before I go off the commission.

Mr. Schwartz realized that the Ethics Commission has no teeth to take on a recalcitrant City Attorney, and City Attorney Sylvia Borunda-Firth is the spitting image of recalcitrance.

Here’s my guess: The Mayor is going to punt the ethics revision to the Ad Hoc City Charter Commission, some members of which are tight with the City Attorney. There will be a flurry of activity, and some smoke and mirrors and a great deal of hand-wringing, followed by handshaking and back-slapping and everything will stay pretty much the shame same.

We really need to change the elected leadership of El Paso. (Full disclosure: I’m running for the District 8 seat on City Council.)

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