Council authorizes ethics review board
By Jeffrey Pieters
A five-member panel will soon be put in place to officiate complaints over the ethics of city officials and employees.
The city council voted 6-0 on Monday to give preliminary approval to an ordinance forming an ethical practices board and setting some of its basic rules.
The intent is to create an independent body that can be trusted to render impartial and fair verdicts on complaints involving ethics and conflicts of interest.
The five members would be appointed by a panel composed of the president of Rochester Community and Technical College, the chancellor of the University of Minnesota-Rochester, and the highest-ranking officer of the Olmsted County Bar Association who is not associated with the city attorney’s office. The city would hold public hearings on all appointments.
Some citizens became keenly interested in city ethics as the result of council decisions on two infill development projects.
One citizen, near the Washington Village apartment complex project, filed an actual complaint, against council President Dennis Hanson. Hanson’s case was reviewed by City Administrator Steve Kvenvold and he was absolved of any ethical violation.
Citizens complained about the investigative and enforcement measures in the existing system, as well as public access to conflict disclosure forms filed for the city’s top appointed and elected officials.
City Attorney Terry Adkins drafted the ordinance, modeling it on similar ordinances already in place in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Jacksonville, Fla.
Other council business
Also during the council’s meeting on Monday, an anti-nuisance ordinance won preliminary city council approval on Monday.
Inspired by a property owners’ dispute in southeast Rochester, the ordinance governs property upkeep, forbidding things such as rotted siding, broken glass and unsound foundations.
The ordinance also puts a 90-day limit on Dumpster-sized trash containers that are used at some construction projects.
The ordinance was prompted by neighbors’ complaints about a house at 726 Eighth Ave. S.E., where a business renovating the house had left a trash bin sitting in the driveway for six months.
Although the trash container didn’t violate any health or zoning laws, neighbors contended it was a health hazard and an eyesore.
The situation there has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, officials said. Neither the business owner nor any neighbors attended the council meeting.
The ordinance will be up for a second reading and final passage at the next council meeting, Dec. 1.
For more information, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.
Ethics information http://www.rochestermn.gov/departments/citycouncil/councilmeetings/2008/11November/111708/111708_cow_01.pdf