Ethics provisions updates back on City Commission agenda

This year’s Community Development Block Grant funding allocation process was plagued with conflict of interest issues.

In response, city staff recommend changes to the city code regarding ethics.

Many of those changes will be incorporated into the revision of Title 2, which pertains to personnel and administration.

City staff has been working title by title through the municipal code to remove typographical, grammatical and numerical errors, and areas where the code conflicts with itself.

City working to update municipal code

In September, the City Commission voted to set a public hearing for Oct. 3 on the proposed changes. During the Oct. 3 meeting, staff recommended additional changes that had been added since the first reading and though the revisions were posted online and sent to commissioners the week before the meeting, some commissioners felt it would be better to delay the public hearing and vote to the Oct. 17 meeting.

The proposed changes are back on the commission agenda this week and most will correct typos, inconsistencies and formatting issues. Substantive changes include a requirement that all city public officers, including city board and commission members and elected officials to file a disclosure of any potential conflicts of interest with the city clerk’s office.

City staff propose changes to ethics policies, creation of ethics board in response to conflict of interest issues

The proposed code revision would also establish an Ethics Committee, consisting of three independent resident members, appointed by the City Commission, for not more than three consecutive three-year terms. The committee would work in conjunction with the city attorney’s office to resolve any actual or potential conflicts of interest involving city officials.

Another substantive change is to require all city appointed members of boards, commissions and councils to be city residents, with the exception of the Golf Advisory Board since it includes a representative from Malmstrom Air Force Base.

The residency requirement would not apply to members that are appointed by Cascade County to joint boards, like the Great Falls International Airport Advisory Board.

If adopted, the residency requirement will not affect those currently serving on city boards, but future appointees would need to meet the requirement.

During the Oct. 3 meeting, Rebecca Engum, director of Great Falls Montana Tourism, requested that the residency requirements of the Tourism Business Improvement District be reconsidered, as some members of the TBID are not City residents and that there are existing limits to TBID appointment, limiting the ability to find members.

The TBID was created by commission resolution, so any consideration of residency requirements for that board can be addressed separately by amending that resolution, according to city staff.

Library Director Kathy Mora also requested that some of the Library Board of Trustees be exempted from the residency requirement, in recognition of Cascade County’s support of the library. Under the proposed revision, the library board would consist of five members, with one member of the City Commission serving as an ex officio, non-voting member. The board members must be residents of Cascade County, with at least three being qualified electors and residents of the city.

The proposed changes will also required that anyone interested in participating in city boards, commissions or councils to be qualified electors in the city.

“Because the city boards and commissions make pertinent recommendations to the City Commission regarding city policy and allocation of city resources, it is reasonable to expect that those members be residents and qualified to vote in accordance with state and federal law,” according to the staff report.

Another recommendation is to repeal the Youth Council, which was established in 2009 but has not been an active functioning council.

Other changes include renaming the Fiscal Services Department as the Finance Department, a change that was requested by the department director and doesn’t impact the department’s responsibilities.

The code revision would also recognize the Human Resources Department, which will include risk management among department responsibilities. Currently, risk management is under the fiscal services department. The changes would also move the Information Technology division from fiscal to fall under deputy city manager supervision.