Ordinance in question

To the Journal editor:

I attended last Monday night’s city commission meeting, where a new ethics ordinance was passed into law. Commissioner Ryan voiced the sole dissenting vote against this ordinance at the Monday meeting. He was right to be concerned.

Despite the best intentions of the commission, and the ordinance being described at the meeting as following the draft language of Michigan’s model ethics ordinance, there are numerous additions and omissions in our local code that stray from the state model.

Marquette left out entirely the annual financial disclosure requirements for officials found in the state model, and added unique language requiring officials, employee and even volunteers appointed to committees to “avoid any action which might result in or create the appearance of:

(1)Using public office or employment for private gain;

(2) Giving improper preferential treatment to any person or organization;

(3) Impeding government efficiency or economy;

(4) A lack of independence or impartiality of action;

(5) Making a government decision outside of official channels;

(6) Affecting adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity of the City.”

These are some of the ordinance provisions Commissioner Ryan took issue with.

Marquette has decided to set the bar awfully high and for it to apply to far more people than state model ordinance intends. Commissioners and volunteer committee members alike, by some interpretations of the ordinance, may no longer be able to promote citizen causes preferentially in the city. What constitutes ‘proper’ preferential treatment, anyway?

Marquette’s ordinance as written suggests a local artist cannot serve on the volunteer arts and culture advisory committee if there is any gain they might realize from their efforts or appear to be acting preferentially to promote an art organization on a committee.

Does this ordinance intend the city commission can no longer consider brownfield credits or tax reductions for businesses like the Veridea Group or the Marquette Food Co-op corporation?

Tax relief and brownfield redevelopment tax credits for private business interests are very preferential.

Marquette’s ordinance also left off the regulation and oversight portions of the state model ordinance. Marquette’s new ordinance neglected to add an ethics board or manner of reporting violations – which were indispensable elements of the state model ordinance.

The state model ordinance commentary cautioned about building a local government with “Laws and agencies that chill that willingness to serve do far more harm than good.”

Congratulations, Marquette. With this ham-fisted ordinance you did just that.