Revised ethics code to go before full Port Townsend City Council

PORT TOWNSEND —The Port Townsend City Council’s ad hoc committee has forwarded proposed changes to the city’s ethics code to the full City Council.

The panel — made up of council members David Faber, Amy Howard and Pamela Adams — voted to send the revisions to the full council Thursday after a second public hearing.

The code had not been scheduled for council deliberation as of Friday.

The second meeting was an effort to give plenty of time for public comment on the issue, since the committee itself was formed due to a number of public comments on the council’s plans to revise the ethics codes.

Among the changes would be an extension of the statute of limitations from a year to three years. However, it would be allowed for the hearings officer to take a complaint outside the statute of limitations

No members of the public attended the first meeting. One person in attendance Thursday submitted a public comment. Another, Bernie Arthur, submitted a written request asking that the statute of limitations not be limited to three years.

“If your decisions were ethical in a three-year period, wouldn’t they also be considered ethical in 10 years?” Arthur asked.

Other changes include how complaints are processed, specifically allowing for complaints to be delivered electronically or in person as long as a record of the delivery is kept, according to City Attorney Steven Gross.

Under the new code, complaints against elected officials or the city manager would be automatically assigned to the ethics hearings officer. That is optional for complaints against employees and members of the advisory boards, according to Gross.

Currently, the city has contracts with three ethics hearings officers. The new code would give those officers independent investigative authority. Those officers would continue to work in an “on call” capacity, so they would not be paid as city employees until they are dealing with ethics complaints, Gross said.

The hearings officer would be responsible for conducting hearings in accordance with current standards, which allows for due process and timelines for documentation and the dispersal of information.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected].

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