Las Vegas Sun

April 17, 2014

Currently: 81° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

CITY GOVERNMENT:

Henderson to consider strengthening ethical rules for employees, elected officials

But ethics watchdog questions effectiveness of effort

Josh Reid

Josh Reid

A proposed Henderson city ordinance would add to ethical standards already governing city employees and elected city officials.

The ordinance, which was first presented last week, will be voted on by the City Council at its Tuesday meeting.

City Attorney Josh Reid said the proposed statute would add more specific guidelines than current state statute, which had previously governed Henderson employees.

“We wanted to create some rules and put a process in place,” Reid said. “I think bringing this process about and getting the employees to read this ordinance is helpful in having them think about their actions and knowing these rules apply.”

Reid said crafting the ordinance was one of his initial goals after being hired as city attorney in November.

The city ordinance covers many of the same areas as the state ethics statute, including disclosure of conflicts of interest, transparency of financial interests and rules for accepting gifts.

Reid said the Henderson ordinance included more specific language on gifts — allowable gifts are capped at $50, as opposed to state statute, which placed no upper limit — and how to address conflicts of interests during a public meeting.

The Henderson ordinance also adds new ethics training requirements for employees and prohibits attorneys in the City Attorney’s Office from taking paid outside work.

Employees also will have the option to seek ethics opinions from the City Attorney’s Office, which could lead to a faster response than the previous model, where such inquiries were directed to the Nevada Commission on Ethics.

Caren Cafferata-Jenkins, executive director of the commission, said she thought the Henderson ordinance would enhance existing state ethics statutes.

“It narrows or specifies for employees and public officers the kind of conduct that is or isn’t expected,” she said, adding that passing the ordinance would help show Henderson government was actively thinking about ethical issues.

“The public’s trust in government only works if the public believes its representatives in government are there with the best interest of the public at heart rather than their own self-interest,” she said.

Martin Dean Dupalo, president of the Nevada Center for Public Ethics, said the city’s ordinance would “tweak” state statute and not have a substantive effect on how ethics issues were handled on the city level.

“I think it’s a very minor proposal that will have a limited effect,” he said.

Dupalo said employees may be reluctant to report many major potential ethical violations to the city attorney, a position appointed by the city council.

“When you challenge the municipality itself in their own court, that presents problems,” he said.

The ordinance also fails to address other potentially more pressing ethical concerns, like how discretionary funds doled out by city council members are used.

“This is a very safe adjustment,” he said. “It’s nothing new. It’s simply codifying something that (officials and employees) should have been following already.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 4 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Just hope the proposals might limit people like Kathy Boutin Vermillion from achieving election. Such a mistake- being elected and then quitting Henderson council-says a lot about how stupid we can be. Now she's knee deep in a mess of her own making. Right, Steve Sisolak?

  2. This is strange, real strange. The need for ethics requirements is nothing new. Yet Nevada and localities have shallow hole-ridden rules? There should be an all-encompassing statute / ordinance that does not attempt to address every potential infraction but provides authority for discipline, termination, prosecution as warranted.

  3. I hope they come up with some better rules for the Henderson Police Department too - I'm still really bothered by learning that kicking a disabled person in the head during a diabetic incident is allowed - that's just ABSURD!

  4. I think a good ethics rule would be "don't hire someone just because their dad is a Senator".