Board of Ethics
September 28, 2001
DENVER BOARD OF ETHICS
MEETING OF SEPTEMBER 28, 2001
Chair Harry MacLean called the meeting to order at 1:40 pm. Present were Board members Harry MacLean, Marcelina Rivera, Carolyn Lievers and Christopher Weimer. Board member Charles Savage was absent and excused.
It was moved, seconded and passed unanimously to approve the minutes of the August 17, 2001 Board of Ethics meeting as submitted.
Interim Director Michael Henry presented his written report, which will be attached to the official copy of these minutes.
Open Discussion wth Some Advocates of 2001 Code of Ethics
Chair Harry MacLean introduced an informal discussion between Board members and several individuals who had been instrumental in advocating the passage of a new Denver Ethics Code and particularly in the 18-month committee hearing and drafting process. Those taking part were former City Council member Susan Casey, Deputy City Attorney Helen Raabe, Genny Weston of the League of Women Voters of Denver, Pete Maysmith and Martha Tierney of Colorado Common Cause and Alana Smart, Aide to City Council member Susan Barnes-Gelt.
Pete Maysmith indicated that he believed that the need for citizens to have confidence in government is the key principle underlying Denver’s Code of Ethics. In addition, advocates of the new Code believed that 1) the public needed to have a forum to raise issues about alleged unethical conduct by Denver employees, officials and officers;
2) the Board of Ethics should not be a powerless showpiece, but should have some actual ability to implement the Code and, 3) the Board of Ethics was not intended to be the “moral police”, but was intended to help instill awareness by City employees, officers and officials of the importance of avoiding the appearance of impropriety as well as actual violations of the Code of Ethics.
Susan Casey said that the intention of the Code of Ethics was to have the Board assume a role of educators more than a role of moral police. It should also investigate and evaluate and make the final decision or recommendation regarding ethical issues.
Helen Raabe said that the Board of Ethics and the Code of Ethics are only a small part of the City’s mission to increase public confidence in government. The appointing authorities also have a significant role in the overall mission.
Marcelina Rivera indicated that the need to avoid the appearance of impropriety is significant. “It is important to look good as well as be good”.
Alana Smart told the Board that it was never the intention of the new Code of Ethics to instill a “gotcha” climate. The ethics training will be very important. Inquiries or complaints from citizens should only be a last resort.
Susan Casey and Helen Raabe both responded to the question of why the Board of Ethics was not given the authority to impose discipline on City employees who violate the Code of Ethics by stating that the Denver Charter only authorizes the appointing authorities and, after appeal, the Career Service Authority, to impose discipline.
Susan Casey suggested that possibly the Career Service Authority rules could be amended to include a reference to the Code of Ethics as a basis for discipline. She also urged the Board to compile and publish advisory opinions. She also indicated that training in ethics is very important.
Genny Weston said that the public is very concerned about the appearance of unethical conduct and said that citizens should be proud of Denver government employees.
Susan Casey suggested that the Board of Ethics may wish to initiate public meetings to educate the public and City employees about the Code of Ethics in general, not relating to specific cases.
Genny Weston recommended that an informational discussion about the Code of Ethics could be initiated on one or more television programs.
Susan Casey emphasized that the Board of Ethics should be a strong, independent board to “advise, recommend and do what is right.”
Pete Maysmith indicated that it is important that the Board of Ethics should be open, transparent and public.
Martha Tierney reminded the Board that there were lots of compromises in the drafting of the Code, which was a collaboration between many parties and Council members and the Mayor. She also indicated that she does not believe that John Bennett’s annotations to the Code, which he distributed at the August 17, 2001 Board of Ethics meeting were “the definitive version.”
Alana Smith said that she believes there is high respect for the Board of Ethics and Genny Weston said that the League of Women Voters appreciates the time and energy contributed by the new Board.
Presentation Regarding Case 01-23
Ron Bernstein, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade and Steve Moore, Assistant City Attorney, presented the facts behind the request for an advisory opinion filed by Mr. Bernstein. This case concerns the hypothetical future purchase by the City of a license to use a suite at Invesco Field at Mile High for Denver Bronco games either through a season pass or through individual tickets. The primary purpose would be to host visitors who are in Denver for economic development reasons.
Mr. Moore indicated that the previously proposed trade of a suite for any remaining trademark rights owned by the City to the name Mile High Stadium will not take place under Mayor Webb’s administration. This request for an advisory opinion is for the purpose of giving guidance to future administrations.
Board member Marcelina Rivera questioned what would be the price for the purchase and whether there would be a discount from the price normally available to the public. She indicated that the price would determine whether the transaction would be defined as a “gift” by the Code of Ethics.
Mr. Moore indicated that the license would be purchased by the City “ for good and valid consideration.” Mr. Bernstein said that it would be a “market rate cash transaction.”
The Board thanked Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Moore for their presentation and indicated that the Board would deliberate in executive session. (It should be noted that presentations and discussions of requests for advisory opinions are normally conducted in executive sessions; however, the Mayor’s office consented to have the presentation in the public session.)
Marcelina Rivera discussed the progress of the development of the ethics handbook and presented the first draft of the handbook. In addition she reported that the development of the ethics training program is making good progress. Board members agreed that digested advisory opinions, not using any names or personal information, would be included in the handbook.
Harry MacLean and Michael Henry presented the Board’s quarterly report, which was presented to the City Council Personnel and Public Safety Committee on September 26, 2001. It was decided by the Board members to mention the Board of Ethics website in the next quarterly report.
Marcelina Rivera moved and Christopher Weimer seconded to go into executive session to have an attorney-client discussion with the attorneys from the City Attorney’s Office and to deliberate on requests for advisory opinions. The motion passed unanimously.
After the conclusion of the executive session, the meeting adjourned at 5:30 pm.
L. Michael Henry
Approved by Board of Ethics November 15, 2001.