Three modifications to the Bethel Municipal Code passed introduction last night, but not without debate.
First, Vice-Mayor Raymond "Thor" Williams introduced a formal training for new council members to learn about their financial and legal responsibilities among other topics.
“It seemed like the council members didn’t get all the information they should have at the time they’re elected on how the city works,” Williams said.
“You know when trainings like this have been offered in the past they’ve been poorly attended,” retorted Council member Leif Albertson.
Next, it was Albertson's turn. He submitted a rewrite of the code's section on ethics violations and the process to review them. This came on the heels of several ethics complaint hearings in the past few months that resulted in no findings.
“It was ambiguous what qualified as an ethics violation, and we also had a review process that we were basically, council was the body that was in charge of that,” Albertson said. “And our attorney, it seemed like everybody agreed that was not a good system.”
One of the changes featured having a hearing officer from the State of Alaska review if a complaint was valid.
“How much is this going to cost the city as an ordinance?” Vice-Mayor Williams asked. “Have we run the numbers with this hearing officer person?”
The final change was that the Finance Committee proposed moving the deadline for the city’s audit from 150 days after the end of the fiscal year to 270 days after. Council member Mitchell Forbes told council that granting agencies only care if an audit has been done before a deadline of 270 days.
“This would put us back in line, or more get the city in line, with the external deadline we see instead of having arbitrary deadlines,” Forbes said.
But Vice-Mayor Williams said that the date was not what mattered.
“Even if you have it at nine months, it doesn’t mean anything,” Williams responded. “Because there’s no enforcement.”
At the end of the night, all three BMC modifications passed introduction.
“And this is an introduction, I’m all in favor of an introduction. We can always make changes,” said Mayor Fred Watson. He reminded council that they will be taking another look at these ordinances at the next meeting.
On Sept. 24, the city council will look at passing these three changes to the Bethel Municipal Code at its last meeting with the seven members currently serving.