The newly elected Bethel City Council changed the way it handles ethics complaints and discussed a new city position this week. Ethics, dog catching, and code enforcement filled the rest of Tuesday night for Bethel City Council.
Council passed an overhaul of the city’s code of ethics that was introduced by former council member Leif Albertson. A few months ago, council members filed three back-to-back ethics complaints against each other. There were no findings, and the ethics hearings happened behind closed doors. At the end of all that, council members agreed that this way of dealing with ethics complaints was flawed.
“I think our BMC Code is really badly written,” said council member Perry Barr after those meetings. “You almost need a law degree to understand the code and interpret it the way it should be interpreted.”
In the old system, council members judged each other in ethics hearings. Barr said that at times, council members didn’t even know what they were allowed to say. In the new system, each ethics complaint will go to an ethics hearing examiner with some legal expertise. This person will start by reviewing whether there’s enough evidence for a valid complaint. If the complaint is valid, it will go to a board of ethics, comprised of volunteers like in other city committees, and the hearing will be held in public.
Next, council went to work on creating a new city job: half dog-catcher and half code-enforcer. Acting city manager Bill Howell had some concerns about funding, now that the city has restricted alcohol sales.
“We just lost a half a million dollars in revenue, maybe more. What positions or what services do you want to cut to afford this?” Howell asked.
Council member Perry Barr suggested that dog fines and code-breaking fines could help to fund the position.
The city council will continue discussion of the new position at the next regular meeting on Oct. 22.