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- 2012 - March - 6th -

Rules approves ethics funding, director

by David Chapman, Staff Writer

A City Council committee approved both the funding and a director Monday for the new Office of Ethics, Compliance and Oversight.

The Council Rules Committee voted 6-0 to appropriate $142,509 from an Office of General Counsel account to the compliance and oversight office.

It endorsed Carla Miller as its director in a 5-1 vote, with Council President Stephen Joost dissenting.

The office was added to the City’s Charter to replace the former ethics office, which Miller led, for the 2011-12 fiscal year, but has yet to be funded.

The newer office will be an independent body, which advocates have said is critical for its success.

Mayor Alvin Brown endorsed the funding legislation late Monday afternoon in a news release and said he looked “forward to signing the bill if the City Council passes it.”

“I strongly believe in ethics in city government. This legislation ensures that the independent Office of Ethics, Compliance and Oversight can move forward on its important mission,” Brown said in the release.

The office has about $75,000 allocated for salary and $4,000-$5,000 allocated for expenses, Miller said, and she works part-time for $82.50 an hour. By purposely working part time, Miller said she is not eligible for a pension.

Any money left from the current fiscal year would lapse into the next budget year for the office.

Joost sat in on the meeting and voted on both ordinances, providing the lone opposing vote on Miller’s endorsement.

Joost is not a member of the committee but, as president, can vote in committees.

He took issue with how the compliance and oversight commission made Miller its director without seeking other applicants and how the appointment was noticed in its meetings.

“I don’t agree with how the whole thing went down and how it was noticed,” Joost said. “Ethics is for everybody … not just us (Council).”

Braxton Gilliam, chairman of the commission, responded to the committee and said that if there was any fault, “it’s at my feet.”

He said he thought the legislation last year suggested to Council that Miller would be the director under the transition. That transition was delayed for months because of the lack of funding and the committee took action on its director in its December meeting.

The funding bill, sponsored by Clay Yarborough and co-sponsored by nine other Council members, is on today’s Finance Committee agenda. The Council could vote on it Tuesday during its full meeting.

Miller’s appointment is not on any other committee agenda and will be voted on Tuesday.

In other action from Monday’s Rules meeting:

• The appointment of Glenn Hansen as the City’s budget officer remained in discussion. The committee deferred action two weeks ago to allow the administration to come to a resolution regarding Hansen’s current St. Marys, Ga., residency, which prevents him from taking the City position without a waiver.

“Much has changed since the last time,” Hansen told the committee. Hansen said he and his wife had decided to lease or buy a home in Duval County and was committed to “do something good here” in the upcoming challenging budget year. After discussion with the administration, though, Rules Chair Bill Bishop said that just buying — and not residing — was not the intent of the law and deferred action for another cycle. “People can own property wherever they want to,” Bishop said, regarding the rule.

• With final approval Tuesday, the Human Rights Commission will have two new members — Walette Machelle Stanford and Sherry Murray.

• Several administration appointees can be confirmed with a final vote Tuesday. Greg Pease, Procurement Division chief; Kelly Boree, Parks and Recreation director; Jim Schock, Building Inspection Division chief; and Usha Mohan, Information Technology chief, all were approved by the committee Monday.

Each went through the committee vetting process. Schock’s was the lengthiest because of questioning about an anonymous letter critical of the office.

• An ordinance to appoint Brian Clarke as the City ombudsman was withdrawn because the Office of General Counsel determined that the role does not need Council confirmation.

dchapman@baileypub.com

356-2466

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