The Richmond City Commission received some proposed changes to the city’s ethics ordinance at its Monday meeting.

Although no vote was cast on the changes, the commissioners did discuss the limits of the ethics board’s authority. Under the current ordinance, the ethics board cannot directly sanction a city official or employee. However, the amendment currently before the city commission would allow the board to discipline city employees and officials if an ethics violation has occurred.

This proposed change caused Commissioner Terry Gaul to question whether enforcing the ethics ordinance was part of the board’s original mandate, or if the board was simply “supposed to come back to the commission after it reaches a decision.”

City Manager Teri Vela echoed Gaul’s question when she said that she wanted input from the commissioners on whether they felt that the ethics committee should be “an advisory or an independent board.”

It wasn’t just the ambiguous nature of the ethics board’s enforcement powers that came under scrutiny on Monday.

Commissioner Carl Drozd also commented on the hazy nature of the ethics ordinance itself. Drozd said that a sentence preventing elected officials and city employees from doing anything “contrary to the public interest” was ill-defined.

“I’ll need to have a sit down with the city attorney before I vote on this,” Drozd said. “The phrase public interest is too broad and too vague.”

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