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NEWS > 31 October 2006

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 Article sourced from

Clarksville Leaf Chronicle - C
31 October 2006
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Ethics policy may be altered

The ethics policy approved recently by City Council surprised more than the police officers and firefighters who learned they could no longer accept cookies for a job well done.

Ward 5 Councilwoman Diana Ward, who said she'd been contacted by "almost outraged" constituents, will propose an amendment to the policy at Thursday's City Council meeting.

A report Monday in The Leaf-Chronicle described how the policy prohibits any city official or employee from accepting any gift even food donations.

Ward 1 Councilman Barbara Johnson said at Monday's executive session of City Council that that's not what she'd voted for.

Under the policy approved Oct. 5, officials with voting responsibilities must disclose personal interests financial, ownership or employment that "would lead a reasonable person to infer that it affects the official's vote."

It also prohibits city officials or employees from accepting "directly, or indirectly, any money, gift gratuity, or other considerations or favor of any kind from anyone other than the municipality."

The policy includes a broad definition of city "personnel," stating that it applies to all full- and part-time elected or appointed officials, whether or not they are compensated, including those on various boards, commissions and committees.

The new policy, based largely on a model ordinance provided by the state Municipal Technical Advisory Service, takes a zero-tolerance stance on gifts prohibiting firefighters from accepting cookies from the public on Thanksgiving, for instance.

"I've had a lot of people call me almost outraged about this, because we're talking about common sense," said Ward 5 Councilwoman Diana Ward.

Mounted Patrol worried about policy
Clarksville Police Officer Mike Davis, of the Clarksville Police Department's Mounted Patrol, said the patrol has canceled a fundraising event scheduled for Saturday to comply with the new policy.

Davis, who called the new policy "a can of worms" that is affecting several departments, said the entirety of the patrol's $18,000 annual budget is supported by donations.

Davis said Mounted Patrol will continue its duties, adding it has enough funds to "scrape by" through the end of next year.

"But after that, its over," he said. "Unless (City Council rescinds) this thing or amends it."

"I just can't believe they'd let it ride off and disappear into the sunset," he said.

Davis apparently will get his wish in the form of Ward's amendment. Because it was not on Monday's executive session agenda, however, it will require a three-quarters vote of the council to be heard.

Ward's amendment would replace the current policy's language regarding gifts with that of an Executive Order issued by Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2003.

"It has some allowances and common-sense exceptions," City Attorney David Haines told the council.

Bredesen's order allows for "unsolicited tokens or awards of appreciation" and food donations valued under $50. Such gratuities, however, would only be permitted from those who neither have nor seek a business relationship with the city.

Of the Mounted Patrol program, Haines said he didn't believe the current policy prohibits it from accepting donations if they are made to the program itself, as opposed to individual officers.

 

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