Lansing OKs ethics ordinance

2013-02-19T20:51:00Z 2013-02-20T07:01:12Z Lansing OKs ethics ordinanceGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 19, 2013 8:51 pm  • 

LANSING | The Village Board gave its approval Tuesday to an ordinance that specifies what activities are inappropriate for the elected officials and employees of municipal government.

By a 6-0 vote, trustees approved an ethics ordinance modeled after the ethics laws that apply to state government employees.

Lansing Village Administrator J. Wynsma said while there were not a lot of instances of unethical behavior by Lansing village officials and employees, there were acts not explicitly prohibited in local ordinances.

“We want it to be clear to everybody who views us that we are an ethical community,” Wynsma said.

Under the ordinance, officials and employees must disclose all property they own in Lansing, any gifts of $100 or more from someone doing business with village government, any interest in a business that has a liquor license or any campaign contribution from someone doing village business.

Among the acts that are now specifically prohibited are any hiring as a reward for political activity, and village equipment, vehicles, materials and property cannot be used for political or personal activity.

Village officials will be prohibited from representing people or entities wishing to do business with Lansing for up to two years after they leave their current post.

Also included is a ban on hiring anyone with debts due to Lansing government.

Wynsma said the intent is to eliminate the potential for conflicts of interest, and he said the measure approved Tuesday provides for stiff fines for people caught violating them.

Fines can be up to $5,000 for violating the gift ban, while going up to $2,500 for violating political activity restrictions or making false complaints against someone else. Elected officials are more likely to get the large fines, while employees who violate the restrictions can lose their jobs, according to the ordinance.

Village President Norm Abbott said he was pleased to see stricter rules in place for municipal officials.

“This raises the bar for our public officials, and I think that is a good thing,” Abbott said.

Wynsma also showed trustees a prototype of a new identification card he wants issued to all village employees, so they can clearly identify themselves to residents.

He said Public Works Department employees are particularly in need of the cards, because they often need to gain access to private property and that there are instances of people trying to run scams while impersonating village officials.

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