Yesterday we took a sneak peek at City Auditor Craig Kinton's audit that reveals the city's code of ethics comes up awful short. As in, for starters: It doesn't explicitly offer whistle-blowers protection. It doesn't task one City Hall monitor with keeping the city on the up-and-up. Its ethics commission doesn't have any real muscle. And the city doesn't even have a working number for its fraud hotline -- which, Kinton acknowledges, is on him and his office, sorry. This morning the official audit was released; it's below and contains the Chief Financial Officer Jeanne Chipperfield's response, which is, long story short, "Yup."
But now to the floor show, as Kinton just wrapped up giving the council's Budget, Finance & Audit Committee a measured talking-to. He was intro'd, of course, by Jerry Allen, chair of the committee and the man charged by Mayor Mike with giving the code of ethics the once-over. "Clearly there's been an image problem," said Allen, and citizens view their elected officials in something less than a positive light. Which, he acknowledged, is probably well-deserved.
"We're not in dire straits," Allen said at the end of Kinton's talk. "But this is the city of Dallas, and the city of Dallas always likes to be out front." Which is why, 12 years after the council voted on a code of ethics, the city's about to hire a consultant to show the city how to be ethical.
You read that right: "They intend to hire an outside consultant to access the effectiveness of the city's ethics program," Kinton told the council, "and address detected efficiencies" by September 2013.
To which Chipperfield later added, that consultant -- who'd be hired after the city puts out a request for proposals that's yet to be defined -- would "look at how we would work on creating this culture of ethics and putting in place a training program, more of an ongoing program, for employees to refresh themselves on the ethics program and how it works and, once the program's been put in place, review the effectiveness" of said program.
"It would appear maybe communicating, educating and oversight are areas for improvement," said Allen. So now the Ethics Advisory Commission, already a little confused about its duties, will get the audit, after which chair Randy Skinner and his group will come back to the council with their own best-practices recommendations to establish "a culture of ethics," as Allen explained it. Because "that's what we're working on -- a culture of ethics."
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Not only that, said Allen, but he wants to put together a blue ribbon commission on ethics. "Dallas has a wealth of individuals that are out there that can give us guidance and direction that we can learn from," Allen said. "Establishing a blue ribbon commission, I think, will be important."