Director and funding approved for independent ethics office
Almost a year after it was created to replace the City’s Ethics Office, City Council approved funding and a director Tuesday for the independent Office of Ethics, Compliance and Oversight.
Carla Miller was approved by City Council as the new director by a vote of 17-1.
Council President Stephen Joost was the dissenting vote, voicing opposition to how Miller was selected for the position by the Ethics Commission without advertising for the position.
Miller was appointed by former Mayor John Peyton as the City Ethics Officer and will continue to develop the City’s ethics program.
“It’s exciting. It’s the beginning of the charter ethic office,” said Miller. “It’s exciting because so many citizens were behind the creation of an independent ethics office.”
Council voted 18-0 to appropriate $142,509 from the Office of General Counsel/Ethics Office to fund the office.
The funding was set aside for the former City Ethics Office in the current budget, but the transfer of funds to the new office was held up by the mayor’s office until Council’s intent was clarified.
In a statement released March 5, Mayor Alvin Brown “commended Councilman Yarborough for his work to clear up any questions about intent as to ethics funding in the 2011-2012 budget.”
In that budget, Council appeared to fund the City Ethics Office rather than the new ethics, compliance and oversight office, Brown said.
When the Ethics Commission chairman and the office director asked the Brown administration to transfer funds budgeted for the City Ethics Office to the new compliance and oversight office, the City’s general counsel informed them that the Council had to authorize a budget transfer.
Brown said in the statement that Yarborough’s legislation, co-sponsored by nine other council members, provided the necessary legislative authority.
This process was undertaken despite language in ordinance 2011-197E that stated:
“It is the intention of Council that the Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Oversight be budgeted and operational commencing with the 2011-2012 fiscal year, and that all positions of this office be filled with existing budgeted city positions and that no additional funding be necessary to staff the office.”
Yarborough introduced ordinance 2012-0085 to clarify the Council position on the compliance and oversight office.
“I thank the council for its support and I am looking forward to continuing efforts to work with the mayor’s office and the new ECO office to further the City’s ethics program,” he said.
The office’s first project will be a meeting with ethics officers from the City’s independent authorities.
“The meeting was set up to find the best way to pool our resources and coordinate our efforts in risk assessment and training,” said Miller.
The major change for the City’s ethics program was to remove it from the mayor’s administration and make it an independent body.
The director of the office is now appointed by the Ethics Commission and not by the mayor. The office is administratively housed in the Office of General Counsel, which is part of the mayor’s administration but has a separate budget and accountability.