Bexley has established a code of ethics and conduct for elected and appointed officials.
In a 4-3 vote Aug. 28, Bexley City Council approved Ordinance 13-18, which implements the code.
The ordinance states "the ethics and conduct guidelines are designed to describe the manner in which elected and appointed officials shall treat one another, city staff, constituents and others while representing the City of Bexley. ... This code shall be consistent with the city charter and applicable law."
In drafting the ordinance, Councilwoman Monique Lampke said she researched codes of ethics and conduct in 20 municipalities nationwide and culled best practices.
Lampke said Bexley's ordinance "will give our city and the residents the reassurance that all elected and appointed officials will conduct themselves in a professional manner that instills public confidence, instills trust and that should go far in the fair operation and integrity of our city government, especially in today's climate."
Lampke and council members Lori Ann Feibel, Steve Keyes and Troy Markham said they voted for the code because it would promote civility among public officials and bolster residents' confidence in local government.
Council members Mary Gottesman, Tim Madison and Richard Sharp said they voted against the legislation because of lack of input in its drafting, concerns over limits on freedom of speech and the fact that Ohio Revised Code already offers codes of conduct and ethics for elected officials.
Madison said he is also concerned the ordinance grants powers to council to remove a fellow council member based on subjective criteria, such as "the appearance of impropriety." He said the code should have been taken up as part of the city's charter review commission, which now is scheduled to convene next year.
"We should let disinterested people, which is the charter review commission, whenever it happens -- they're the ones who should do this, not city council," Madison said.
Gottesman said the ordinance contains vague terminology that could lead council members to impose inappropriate sanctions on colleagues based on their personal interpretation of the legislation.
"This document does nothing to assist us in serving as desirable role models and undercuts collegiality among council members," Gottesman said. "It has already sown division on council and undercut our effectiveness in conducting the city's business this year."
Rather than passing the ordinance, council members could have evaluated whether their existing rules could have been modified, Sharp said.
"I think there may be separate areas within the rules that address ethical concerns that may not be in the state code," he said. "I don't think that creating a separate document outside of our established ordinances and city rules and laws is appropriate."
Madison, Gottesman and Sharp said they were also disappointed that Lampke didn't incorporate any amendments they proposed into the final version of the ordinance. Lampke said she reviewed the amendments Madison, Gottesman and Sharp proposed prior to the last discussion of the ordinance at council's June 26 meetings.
"I disagreed with most, if not all, of the suggested changes," Lampke said. "There was a very lengthy and robust discussion at that meeting."
Markham said he was willing to discuss the amendments Madison, Gottesman and Sharp proposed in further detail at the Aug. 28 meeting.
"I'm here prepared to hear the work that you've done, but I'm also here to support some version of this ethics bill," Markham said.
Keyes said the ordinance is similar to codes of ethics and conduct that private employers use.
"To me, a lot of this innocuous and it's the very least that the city should ask of us that we should behave to each other and to members of the public," Keyes said.
Feibel said she supports the ordinance's overarching theme of promoting respect among public officials and residents.
"I believe that establishing this code will reaffirm our community's confidence in our values as individuals and the group as a whole, which in the end is for the good of Bexley," Feibel said. "I believe that we can act as a body locally and be an example of change that the rest of our nation needs."
Of the three residents in attendance when council approved the ordinance, all said they don't believe the legislation is necessary. Francis Avenue resident Virginia Christopherson said the proposed amendments Madison, Gottesman and Sharp drafted should have received more consideration.
"We should have the opportunity to hear what they have come up with, because I'm sure it was very thoughtful and it probably should not have been up to one or two people to say it's not worthwhile," Christopherson said.
Euclaire Avenue residents Don and Constance Lewis said Ohio Revised Code and Bexley's city charter already provided sufficient ethics guidelines for public officials.
"If it's outlined by the state of Ohio, we follow their rules," Don Lewis said. "I don't think there's a need for this."
"We have a charter, we have state rules that govern this body," Constance Lewis said. "I think if there's misconduct, leave it up to the voters to vote you in or vote you out."
For more information about the ordinance, visit the city's website, bexley.org.