No consensus on ethics ordinance among Aurora City Council members
Author: Kara Mason - November 21, 2018 - Updated: November 21, 2018
AURORA — Members of the Aurora City Council are working toward an ethics ordinance for the governing body, but city lawmakers so far don’t agree on what that code should look like.
The 11-member council defeated an ordinance Monday with a tie-breaking vote from Mayor Bob LeGare.
Council members Marsha Berzins, also mayor pro tem, and Charlie Richardson, a former city attorney in Aurora, co-sponsored the ordinance. Both said it was time for the city to update its code of ethics.
Richardson said during the meeting he believed the proposed ordinance to be “strong” and “effective.” Unlike the current ethical rules governing the body, the ordinance would have required a retired judge to oversee ethical complaints against City Council members and issue advice to the city lawmakers. It also outlined financial and gift disclosure rules.
But other members said they weren’t convinced the ordinance would offer any improvement over the existing council rules. Council member Nicole Johnston, who was elected last year, presented a different ethics code to a city policy committee in August — a code she said she believes more closely aligns ethical rules for City Council with the state’s Amendment 41.
Her version tasked a panel with hearing ethical complaints, includes rules for nepotism, and sets higher standards for accepting gifts and lobbying. Her version also applied to board and commission appointees and executive staff, in addition to city lawmakers.
“After tonight, we don’t have a ethics ordinance,” Johnston said after the council voted down tabling the ordinance and continuing it to a future meeting. “We can say ethics in quotes.”
Johnston then offered amendments to the ordinance, saying that they weren’t even really amendments, but pieces of her own ordinance. Other members made note that a red-lined copy of Johnston’s bill with the changes in the ordinance Richardson and Berzins brought to council had been circulating among the group.
When the ordinance came to a final vote, the council was evenly split, prompting LeGare’s vote to sink the proposal.
Johnston said she plans to return to her ordinance.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9:52 a.m. Nov. 21 to reflect the fact that Monday’s vote was LeGare’s second tie-breaking vote since being appointed mayor.