Test Case

The verdict is in: City Plan Commissioner David Spence had an ethical lapse

Spence grew quiet.

"Very good question," he answered. After an uncomfortable moment, Spence said, "Can you say the question again?"

The question restated, Spence argued that the commission had no jurisdiction over his actions because the ethics code relates only to city documents and, in this case, he used his title on state documents [the TABC is a state agency]. Besides, he added, he didn't meet the code's requirement that he knowingly violated the code because he didn't know that private citizens could not access TABC applications.

"I've read the code at least a dozen times word for word," Spence said, adding that Ramirez's application is information that "is not under your umbrella."

Spence pounded his fist on a table to accentuate the point.

"I don't mean to come off as unrepentant or as oblivious to the ways that my actions could have been interpreted as hostile or inappropriate," he continued. "I would simply ask you to look very carefully at the code."

As the commissioners retreated behind closed doors, Spence stormed out of the conference room. In the hallway, Spence initiated his first face-to-face conversation with Ramirez. Spence said he was "poorly served by his aggressiveness" and that he regrets his behavior.

"My core error was that I gave you the impression that you were going to be ambushed," Spence told Ramirez. "However I approached it, I obviously put you on the defensive, and I apologize for it."

He then offered Ramirez his hand and Ramirez took it, promising that he would operate his restaurant with the neighborhood's best interests in mind.

When later asked whether he believes he did anything wrong, Spence was less forthcoming.

"There are lots of expressions of regret on the tape," he snapped, referring to the cassette tape recording of the day's proceedings. Asked if that answer was a yes or a no, Spence said, "That's a go-pay-a-buck-for-the-tape."

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