An ordinance that would implement a code of conduct and ethics for elected and appointed officials in Bexley generated lengthy discussion among Bexley City Council members at its three readings over the past month.
Council members voted 4-3 to table the ordinance at their May 22 meeting, but said they plan to work together to revise the legislation and adopt it before their July recess.
Monique Lampke, chairwoman of council's Safety and Health Committee, introduced the ordinance April 24. She said she modeled the legislation on codes of conduct and ethics in other municipalities, including Columbus.
"What this is talking about is basic decency and common courtesy," Lampke said at council's May 22 meeting. "Bexley is not first in proposing an ordinance like this, but we sure should not be last."
According to the language of the ordinance, "the ethics and conduct code guidelines are designed to describe the manner in which elected and appointed officials shall treat one another, City staff, constituents and others they come into contact with while representing the City of Bexley. The Code of Ethics and Conduct is designed to make public meetings and the process of governance run more smoothly."
The original version states that elected and appointed officials should "comply with both the letter and spirit of the laws and policies affecting the operation of government;" avoid conflicts of interest and abstain from matters in which they have financial, personal or professional interests, or a strong personal bias; never publicly criticize an individual city employee; and never comment "off the record" with the media.
Citing concerns about free speech and lack of input in drafting the ordinance, council members Mary Gottesman, Tim Madison, Troy Markham and Richard Sharp voted to table it. Council President Lori Ann Feibel and Steve Keyes joined Lampke in voting against tabling the ordinance.
Council members who voted to table the ordinance said they believe Bexley should adopt a code of ethics and conduct but said all council members and the public should have more input in revising the legislation. Feibel and Keyes said they believed the ordinance should have moved forward because council members and the public had the opportunity to evaluate and comment during the legislation's three readings in April and May.
Feibel said she thinks Bexley not only needs a code of conduct and ethics but that the ordinance could serve as a model for elected officials at the national level in setting a tone of civility.
"We at the (local) level should be the grassroots effort to show our country how we should be legislating and how we should be respecting one another," Feibel said.
Each council member who voted to table the ordinance said they appreciated Lampke taking into account their comments at the first two readings and revising the legislation accordingly, but indicated all council members should have more input. Madison noted that in recent years, council members have worked in small committees to draft major legislation, such as the nondiscrimination ordinance the city adopted in 2015, before introducing it for formal readings.
"These are the things that were talked about at council (meetings) and submitted through committees," Madison said.
He said the code of ethics and conduct had "not gone through the normal vetting process."
Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler said that whatever legislation council members ultimately adopt, it will complement rather than replace existing state laws.
"Ohio has ethics law," Kessler said. "Ohio's ethics law applies to all council members."
Council members said they plan to publicly discuss and revise the ordinance at their meetings June 5 and 26, which are both scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Bexley City Hall, 2242 E. Main St.