Councilmember Sally J. Clark
Councilmember Tim Burgess
CITY COUNCIL UPDATES ETHICS LEGISLATION
Guidelines for city employees strengthened and clarified
SEATTLE – The Council today passed a series of updates to the City of Seattle’s ethics code, following the first comprehensive review of the rules in over 20 years. In an effort to create a stronger ethics code and bring Seattle’s ethics rules to be consistent with some of the best practices in the nation, the Council adopted changes including provisions that will:
- Expand the list of financial interests that require city employees to disqualify themselves from participating in city decision-making
- Require that appearances of conflicts be disclosed
- Extend the Commission’s jurisdiction to reach certain city contractors
- Extend the bar on former city employees assisting others with matters in which they participated as employees
- Limit the bar on former city employees dealing with their former department to cover only communications with the department
- Provide a mechanism to waive the bar on individuals dealing with their former employer
The Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission, an independent committee of seven citizen volunteers, proposed a series of recommendations to the City Council following an extensive examination of the current code, including a review of the rules and experiences from other municipalities and pulling from the experience of administering the current rules in Seattle over the past 20 years. The ethics code (Seattle Municipal Code 4.16) provides a minimum standard of conduct for all 11,000 city employees, including elected and appointed officials.
Councilmember Sally J. Clark said, “We want to ensure city employees abide by the best ethics standards in the nation. For those rare circumstances in which conduct is or might appear unbecoming of employees, we have smart people and smart rules that dictate appropriate recourse. I expect these adopted changes will continue that tradition.”
Councilmember Tim Burgess said, “As a former Chair of the Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission, I know first-hand that Seattle city employees want to do the right thing. The public expects city government to be unquestionably ethical in conducting the people’s business. With these changes, the public’s trust that the city holds to the highest standards should be strengthened.”
The City Council also today adopted ordinances prohibiting city employees or elected officials from paying ethics fines using city dollars, and giving the Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission the authority to enforce a state law that prohibits candidates for City of Seattle elected office from directly soliciting campaign contributions from city employees.