In Final Meeting, City Council Passes Two Changes To BMC; Postpones Code Of Ethics Overhaul

Sep 25, 2019

Bethel City Council passes two changes to Bethel Municipal Code and postpones decision on overhaul to code of ethics.
Credit City of Bethel

For some, last night was perhaps the final time that they would vote as members of the Bethel City Council. With those votes, they passed two changes to the Bethel Municipal Code: adding formal training for new council members, and giving the city more time to complete its audit. The council voted to postpone an overhaul of the city's ethics code until the next meeting.

Vice-Mayor Raymond "Thor" Williams introduced the measure requiring formal training for new council members. It would involve learning legal and financial obligations, along with how to deal with city administration and city departments.

“So they’re better council members right off the bat,” Williams said.

Members also considered the idea of a booklet with the information. In the end, the formal training ultimately passed 5-1, with Leif Albertson opposing and Carole Jung-Jordan not present. Jung-Jordan resigned her seat Monday afternoon.

The council also voted to move the deadline for the city’s audit to a later time. The audit had been due 150 days after the end of the fiscal year. That’s stricter than the 270-day deadline that the state and granting agencies impose. Finance Director Christine Blake said that there was loss of morale in the finance department as they kept missing a deadline that felt impossible.

Finally, an overhaul of the ethics code had been introduced by council member Leif Albertson.

“We currently have a process for ethics hearing,” Albertson said. “It caused us a lot of grief this year. I think we all agreed on that.”

One of the proposed changes was to replace council members on the Board of Ethics with residents. Currently, council members judge each other in ethics hearings. The ordinance also aimed to more clearly define what an ethics violation is. It took 30 pages to detail changes to the ethics code. Plus, the city’s legal advisor, Michael Gatti, suggested 14 more amendments. Vice-Mayor Williams wanted to postpone the vote until the following meeting.

“When you try to change a big section of the BMC, sometimes it takes a little bit longer for everyone to get their points across,” Williams said. “I didn’t hear from the maker of this motion what I thought needed to be changed.”

Williams added an amendment himself about how members of the Board of Ethics would be selected and how often they would meet. With that, council member Albertson agreed that there were enough changes to table the discussion. The body voted to hand off the ethics code overhaul to the new council that will be voted in Oct. 1.