On Bexley City Council's 2019 agenda is new legislation that Mayor Ben Kessler said is designed to spell out how council members should conduct themselves and interact with the public.

City Council is considering Ordinance 46-18, which, if approved, would become Rule 30 of the codified rules that govern council members' conduct in office.

The ordinance states: "In dealing with each other and members of the public, members should not make belligerent, personal, impertinent, slanderous, threatening, abusive, or disparaging comments. No shouting or physical actions that could be construed as threatening will be tolerated. Under no circumstances shall a member attempt to wrongfully influence, bully, coerce, manipulate, or intimidate another member or a member of the public.

"In hearing the public during meetings, every effort should be made to be fair and impartial in listening to testimony and comment while treating the speaker with civility," it also states.

Kessler said he drafted Ordinance 46-18 last summer to complement Ordinance 13-18, the code of ethics and conduct ordinance council adopted last August.

When council passed Ordinance 13-18 last summer, Kessler said he signed his individual copy as it specifically applies to his position as mayor, but he did not sign the overarching legislation. Kessler said his decision not to sign Ordinance 13-18 was not to oppose the concept behind the legislation, but rather to make a statement about the contentious way council debated it.

"I felt at the time that there was some misleading debate swirling around the code of conduct, and that distilling its essence into a one-paragraph rule could be helpful," Kessler said.

Kessler said Ordinance 46-18 is intended to reinforce Ordinance 13-18.

"With the code of conduct having been passed, I still think having conduct expectations succinctly codified within the proposed Rule 30 provides stronger procedural tools for enforcing the code of conduct and adds weight and support to it," he said.

Kessler said Ordinance 46-18 is designed to promote civility, in general, and is not directed at any particular council member's conduct.

However, Councilman Tim Madison's conduct was the focus of discussion at council's last two meetings of 2018, held Dec. 4 and Dec. 11.

In a report written by Bexley City Attorney Marc Fishel following an investigation he conducted, Bexley resident Nate Caplin said Madison followed him outside of Bexley City Hall during a break at the Nov. 13 meeting and insulted him.

During that meeting, council voted against Ordinance 23-18, which was legislation that Madison had introduced to ban Airbnb and other short-term rentals in Bexley.

According to the city attorney's incident report, Caplin stated that during the Nov. 13 incident, Madison followed him to his car in city hall's parking lot and spoke in an angry tone.

Fishel said he found that Madison's conduct was not illegal. However, council members voted on Dec. 4 to release Fishel's incident report to the public. Council members voted at the Dec. 11 meeting to officially reprimand Madison and temporarily remove him as chairman of the Zoning, Development and Judiciary Committee until he completes counseling, which would be paid for by the city.

"I am weighing all my legal options" in regard to the Nov. 13 incident and council's reprimand, Madison said by email.

Madison is one of three council members, along with Councilwoman Mary Gottesman and Councilman Richard Sharp, who voted against Ordinance 13-18 last August, citing lack of input in its drafting and freedom of speech concerns. Madison said he would have voted for Ordinance 46-18 if it had been presented to council instead of Ordinance 13-18.

"But now that the ethics ordinance is in effect, I see no purpose for Rule 30," Madison said. "I would support rescinding the ethics ordinance in favor of proposed Rule 30. Regardless, my position may change after Rule 30 is debated at council."

Council members discussed potential amendments to Ordinance 46-18 at the Dec. 11 meeting.

Sharp said council should consider removing the phrase "wrongfully influence" from the legislation.

"It's somewhat vague," Sharp said. "You could say 'illegally influence.' ... I don't really know what 'wrongfully influencing' means."

Councilwoman Monique Lampke, chairwoman of the Safety and Health Committee, suggested language should be added to Ordinance 46-18 that discourages council members from making false statements.

"When we're dealing with members of the public and each other, I do think we need to be truthful and not make false comments," Lampke said.

Gottesman said the language in Ordinance 46-18 already states council members should "demonstrate social responsibility in serving the city of Bexley, with an emphasis on candor, truthfulness and transparency."

"This notion of being truthful in our statements is already addressed in a positive way, as opposed to, 'Don't lie,' " Gottesman said.

Ordinance 46-18 was scheduled for a second reading on Jan. 8, with a third and final reading scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 22 at Bexley City Hall, 2242 E. Main St.

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