Madison council delves deeper into ethics ordinance
By Stephanie Johns
When it comes to the city’s ethics ordinance, Mayor Bruce Gilbert said Madison is doing “a lot more” than other cities whose ordinances he has looked at.
He said it did not look to him as though volunteers would be penalized. He added he was not in favor of imposing a monetary penalty and pointed out being accused of an ethics violation and having one’s picture on the front of the newspaper was a penalty itself.
City Manager David Nunn spoke about city employees and their concerns about being included in the ordinance. He said they already follow an ethics ordinance in their employee handbook.
City attorney Joe Reitman agreed the city must be careful not to introduce contradictory language. He said he would contact a fellow attorney to get more information on this.
Madison Planning Director Monica Callahan pointed out state law provides safe harbor to Downtown Development Authority members. Reitman said he would be sure not to conflict with that either.
Resident David Land shared with this newspaper a letter he wrote addressed to the mayor and council and dated Jan. 25, 2013.
In it he agreed the city’s ethics ordinance is inconsistent with the city charter. He also shared his concerns about expanding coverage of the ethics ordinance to include volunteers.
He wrote, “We do have honest people serving on our committees, and it is for their protection that this issue needs to be addressed more thoroughly than simply the proposed changes to the charter.”
Because charter amendments such as this require two public hearings as well as two hearings at regular city council meetings, Reitman said the earliest this could be completed would be in March.
As to the group’s Friday work sessions, Gilbert pointed out holding the meetings at noon has not prompted the public to attend. He added it even has proven problematic for a councilman.
He asked the council to consider holding their Friday work sessions at a different time and also to consider cutting back from having every Friday to only two Fridays a month.
In other news, councilmen voted during their called meeting to have Madison City Planner Bryce Jaeck create language in support of an Athens-area Development of Regional Impact (DRI).
Jaeck noted the DRI was for a mixed use development that would primarily be residential and retail. He pointed out the buildings presently on the site would have to be removed.
As the proposed site is located near the North Oconee River, development may have a regional impact.
Nunn said whatever is built there “would have to be environmentally better than what’s there now.”
Jaeck recommended the council offer no objection to a positive DRI.
Printed in the January 31, 2013 edition