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Ethics group proposes broader scope for city code Allison K. Sampite | Tue, Aug 16 2011 12:00 PM

The Chula Vista City Council heard the first reading Tuesday night of an ordinance that would amend ethical standards for city officials.

Chapter 2.28 of the city's municipal code was reviewed by the Chula Vista Board of Ethics, which sets ethical standards for city officials.

Specifically, the board is charged with ensuring the chapter's continuing pertinence and effectiveness.

Board of Ethics Chair Felicia Starr and Chula Vista Deputy City Attorney Simon Silva presented their review and amendments to the code; council members offered several changes to the board's proposal including adding to or striking some items.

City officials subject to the code include all council members, the mayor, city attorney, city manager and city clerk as well as board and commission members.

The board proposed that the code be amended to also include people the board believes significantly impact the making of city policy, specifically department directors and assistant managers.

"We wanted clarity in the way the code was formatted including due process, avoiding duplicity, abuse and ensuring its effectiveness," Starr told the council.

The board organized the code into three components including code of ethics, technical amendments and complaint procedures.

The board found that ethics standards have a lack of clarity within the code itself.

To resolve it, an actual code of ethics was created and broken into two categories, including guiding principals and specific prohibitions.

Guiding principals include the code's aspirational goals, which exceed what's required by law, for example, identifying what the goals should be as far as fraud, waste and abuse.

Specific prohibitions consider unethical conduct, for example, coercing a subordinate or employee in campaigning or aiding and abetting another to violate the code.

Under technical changes, the board increased the categories of persons subject to the code to cover persons who the board thought made or influences city policy.

The hearing process for an alleged violation includes a prima facie review and probable cause hearing on merits.

A decision is then rendered based on a declaration of misconduct or no misconduct, the board's declarations, which are final and recommendation to City Council for action.

The ordinance will come back to council for another first reading in 60 to 90 days.

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