Councilmember Sally Clark
Councilmember Richard Conlin
Council President Nick Licata
Councilmember Richard McIver
Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck
COUNCIL STRENGTHENS ETHICS CODE
Clear ethics standards for citizens who volunteer on Seattle’s advisory boards and commissions.
Today, the Seattle City Council voted to create new ethics standards for citizens who volunteer on Seattle’s advisory boards and commissions. The boards and commissions provide advice to the Council, the Mayor and City departments on a variety of issues, ranging from human rights and the arts to parks and telecommunications.
The new ethics code reinstates a fine for commissioners who do not recuse themselves when they have a real financial conflict of interest. The maximum $1,000 fine could be imposed by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), which could also recommend that commissioners found at fault should be removed from their positions.
“I’m pleased we found a way to strike a balance between getting the best people to provide informed opinions and making sure that our boards and commissions are not misused for personal gain,” says Councilmember Sally Clark, chair of the Economic Development and Neighborhoods Committee, which reviewed the legislation for the Council.
Several current and past board members and commissioners expressed concern that reinstating fines could inhibit citizens from participating on advisory boards. Their unease came from the possibility that a fine could be levied against them for having an appearance of a conflict of interest, yet they were recruited to join the board or commission because of their expertise or familiarity with an issue. “With these important changes, we’re restoring public confidence in the integrity of government,” says Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck.
To that end, the Council supported an amendment proposed by Council President Nick Licata that allows SEEC to impose a $250 fine for board members who have failed to disclose “the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
“We want to encourage informed citizens to participate in government by having clear standards that everyone will be able to work with,” says Councilmember Richard Conlin.