My opponent tries to make the city’s honesty policies a wedge issue to make me look bad. He either does not know what he is talking about or is intentionally distorting the facts.
Before I was elected in 2016, while I was voluntarily out of office, Ald. Gierl (my opponent’s ally) convinced the Common Council to add an honesty provision to the city’s personnel code. It was already implicit in the code, but it was still a good idea.
He later decided that the policy in the personnel code did not have enough teeth. He decided that he wanted to add something to the city’s ethics code.
Ald, Gierl was still trying to get an honesty provision added to the ethics code when I rejoined the Council in 2016. Trying to work with him, in May of 2016, I came up with an ethics code provision that I thought would work. He liked my language. The Public Welfare Committee recommended approval of my language. Click here for the meeting minutes.
We at first were all in agreement that we wanted comments from the Ethics Board. In July of 2016, the Ethics Board gave some preliminary comments but reviewed the wrong language. Mr. Gierl did not want to hear more from the Ethics Board. Ald, Mayr and I insisted. Click here for the meeting minutes.
The Ethics Committee did not think that was the appropriate place for the provision. They wanted the ethics code to mirror the state ethics code, where they had precedent to look to in fulfilling their duties, and did not want to be the arbiter in deciding what is true or not true, particularly between elected officials. They did not want to be a political tool. The Ethics Board rules on non-subjective issues. More importantly, under state law, the Ethics Board would have no authority to do anything if it found that someone violated such an honesty provision. It would have been a toothless remedy.
Click here for the Ethics Board memo. My opponent says he wants to rely on city volunteer boards’ recommendations. Apparently not this one.
Even in light of the Ethics Board recommendation, I moved to have the code change go to the Council in August. Click here for the meeting minutes. Staff did not put it on the Council agenda as my motion, seconded by Ald, Gierl, required.
Instead, staff brought the language back to the Public Welfare Committee. I persisted in supporting the idea of trying to ensure that we are committed to honesty.
In August, Ald, Gierl and I changed direction, agreeing that this did not necessarily need to be in the ethics code, but something needed to occur. We asked staff to come up with some remedies for dishonesty. Click here for the meeting minutes.
In September, we decided to create a two-track process – one ordinance change to the personnel code and a second ordinance to ensure there was a method to review the dishonesty or other bad acts of any elected or appointed official or any employee. I made the motion, and Ald. Gierl seconded the motion! He agreed to remove the request to change the ethics code and instead go on this new path. Click here to read the September 2016 minutes.
In November 2016, we worked on the language. Ald. Gierl agreed with my proposals. He seconded my motion. Click here to read those minutes.
We continued in December and were in full agreement. Click here to read those minutes.
Through the process, we (the Public Welfare Committee – Ald. Gierl, another alderman and I) toughened the personnel code. When that was passed by the Common Council in January 2017, Ald. Gierl was happy. As stated in the minutes, “Alderman Gierl stated this was a long time coming and that this is a great addition to the City of Mequon.”
Also at the January 2017 Council meeting, the Council added our language to the Code ensuring that two Council members could put anything on the agenda, This would allow the Council to censure an alderman (the only thing that can be done under state law) or review anyone else’s conduct.
I worked with Ald. Gierl. I helped him get what he wanted – a clear ordinance that allows the disciplining of staff for dishonest conduct or for retaliation and a process in which the Council (the only body that can under state law discipline an elected official) can review anyone’s misconduct.