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Council to consider adopting ethics code tonight

Posted: May 13, 2008 1:36 a.m.
Updated: July 14, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Santa Clarita city officials may soon have to abide by a city code of ethics, but the proposed code that will go before the council tonight is essentially the same as policies already in place.

Santa Clarita's five-page proposed ethics code draws on existing city, state and federal laws and principles that city staff and council members are already expected to adhere to. The proposed code is modeled after ethics codes from other cities, said Michael Murphy, the intergovernmental relations officer for the city.

"There really wasn't anything that we didn't have in some form or other in our organization (already)," Murphy said. "The one thing that we are lacking is that we don't have a document called an ethics code, which a lot of other jurisdictions have."

The code includes policies of fairness, respect and honesty that are outlined in the city of Santa Clarita philosophies and personnel guidelines. City staff also incorporated state and federal laws pertaining to conflicts of interest and use of public resources.

Bruce McFarland, a founding organizer of the Santa Clarita Valley Ethics Alliance, said that because no new requirements have been proposed, the code is hardly a code of ethics. He said he wants to see the city set up a body or commission to independently review allegations from members of the public or city staff.

"They have no added rules or regulations," he said. "Where is the public oversight of what's going on?"

Murphy said, however, that ethical issues have been sufficiently addressed in the city's existing policies.

"I think that some people want to treat this as if the city has never looked at the ethics issue, never looked at the ethics question and this is the first time somebody is coming forward with the ethics issue, and that just isn't true."

Last August, the City Council asked city staff to compile all existing information regarding codes of ethics and bring a report back to the council for review. The council, however, did not explicitly direct staff to return to the council with a proposed code of ethics.

"Since a couple of the council members referenced the term 'ethics policy' during the discussion, what we decided to do was to bring back a draft ethics policy," Murphy said. "That becomes the starting point for the council to determine what they want to do."

If the council agrees to adopt the code of ethics tonight, the code would go in effect immediately, Murphy said.

The council will meet at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers of City Hall at 23920 Valencia Blvd.


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