Elected officials should be held to a higher standard when it comes to conflicts of interest, says newly elected Assembly member Loren Jones.
But Jones was unsuccessful in getting an ordinance back to committee that would separate politicians from city staff.
The ordinance amends the CBJ Conflict of Interest Code. CBJ manager Kim Kiefer said the key provision is this admonition:
“A municipal officer may not take or withhold official action to affect a manner in which the municipal officer has a financial interest,” Kiefer said.
The ordinance before the Assembly Monday night defined financial interest as a business, property, professional or private relationship from which the person or a family member has received compensation within three years.
Jones said it wasn’t clear, particularly the three-year time period. When does it start?
“I think there’s a different standard for elected officials versus staff, or people on the advisory board(s),” Jones said. “A question that I was asked by a citizen dealt with does it start when an Assembly member files a letter of intent to run, is that the three-year look back, or it after they’re elected and sworn in?”
Monday was Jones’ first meeting as an Assembly member. He had already taken his concerns to City Attorney John Hartle.
“Assembly member Jones had several terrific questions on this,” he said, but noted that rewriting the ordinance so it applies differently to elected officials than to CBJ employees would take some time. Hartle recommended the ordinance go to the Committee of the Whole for work.
Assembly member Randy Wanamaker said he was comfortable with it as is, since the definition of financial interest had been approved by the Assembly Human Resources Committee a few weeks ago.
On a four to five vote, Jones’ proposal to send the bill back to committee was shot down, and the ordinance passed as is.
Wanamaker said the ordinance could be amended at the next regular Assembly meeting, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. No member called for reconsideration of their vote.
Juneau voters last year rejected an Assembly proposal to allow elected officials to opt out of state financial reporting requirements.
State law requires municipal officials annually report all sources of income over $100,000; all gifts over $250; capital gains, real property, loans, contracts and leases. Disclosure also applies to each official’s spouse, domestic partner or dependent children.
While the state allows municipalities and boroughs to opt out, the Assembly couldn’t convince Juneau voters to allow it.
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