ELLSWORTH, Maine — City councilors have adopted a revised code of ethics and conduct for themselves and other city officials.
The document sets standards of behavior for city officials that demand they “strive to perform their duties with professionalism, endeavor to avoid even the appearance of impropriety wherever practicable, and conduct themselves with utmost civility and respect for members of the public, city staff and other city officials.”
According to City Manager Michelle Beal, the review of the code of ethics and conduct was prompted by the updated city charter, which was adopted by voters in November.
“There were certain requirements in the charter that needed to be added,” Beal said Thursday. “We figured we might as well review the whole thing. It hadn’t been done in years.”
The councilors, along with other elected and appointed officials, reviewed the proposed revisions during a workshop in January and made changes to the document that were included in the code that was adopted at Monday’s council meeting. One of the requirements from the charter, which drew a lot of discussion, Beal said, was the attendance policy.
That policy states that attendance is expected at all council, board or commission meetings, including special meetings, workshops and specifically budget workshops. It also requires city officials to attend at least 50 percent of the committee meetings to which they are assigned.
“City officials shall have the option to be replaced as a committee member if the official is unable to meet the demands of committee attendance,” according to the policy.
Beal said the councilors wanted to make sure officials understood the importance of being present at these meetings.
“There are a lot of committee meetings, and the council felt that those meetings are just as important as the council meetings,” she said. “They wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of their responsibilities.”
Councilors also wanted the provision to replace a committee member if they were not meeting their responsibilities, she said.
The code contains a section on conflicts of interest and includes a strict prohibition on city councilors from appearing on behalf of any third party before any city board or department. It also restricts city officials from using the city’s name, letterhead, logo or seal to endorse political candidates.
“City councilors are elected as nonpartisan,” Beal said, “and the councilors wanted that to remain absolutely nonpartisan.”
The policy does not prevent city officials from using their position in an endorsement as long as it is clear that they are acting in a “personal capacity” and not as a representative of the city.