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Code clean up?: Like borough, Soldotna considers ethics changes

Posted: Friday, April 16, 2010

The City of Soldotna is taking a hint from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in looking to clean up its ethics policies. At Wednesday night's council meeting, an ordinance was introduced to amend the conflicts of interest code for city council members.

"The Kenai Peninsula Borough is going through a code of ethics process right now that's a lot more comprehensive than this," said Dale Bagley, Soldotna council member, who co-sponsored the ordinance along with Mayor Peter Micciche.

Bagley motioned to postpone the adoption of this ordinance to the May 12 meeting to see if council can glean any more ethics code suggestions from the borough assembly.

"I'd like them to finish up that and then we'll see where that applies to us," he said.

Currently, the Soldotna city code does not reference familial ties in its policy outlining conflicts of interest for council members. Bagley said that it's standard for family members to be covered under conflict of interest codes.

The amended code prohibits council members from participating "in discussion or consideration of any matter in which the member has a substantial financial interest."

In the code a "substantial financial interest" is defined as a material benefit, including city contracts more than $500 and zoning permits to the member, his or her employee, official, or relative.

"One of the most important things we do is build public trust as much as we can," Micciche said. "While we haven't had any problems in the city of Soldotna we want to amend the code to eliminate any potential embarrassment in the future."

Earlier this year, Soldotna City Council had a slight hiccup regarding conflicts of interest exemplifying the need for a code update.

Micciche explained that the council was negotiating a land swap for the development of Soldotna Creek Park with residents David and Linda Hutchings, who are the parents of Soldotna council member J. Shea Hutchings.

Hutchings disclosed his potential conflict of interest and council ruled that none existed. However, later in the legal and council process it was determined Hutchings would have a conflict of interest and he was asked to abstain from the vote. At that time, city policy did not include family as a conflict of interest.

The Borough Assembly is considering revising its ethics codes on the heels of the controversy surrounding the mayor's former chief of staff, and his failure to disclose an "intent to do business" before his company did a business deal with the borough.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.



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