Council preparing to instate new code of ethics for city officials and employees

(City of Casper via Youtube)

CASPER, Wyo. — While the City of Casper previously had a formal code of ethics, that was repealed in 2018.

The Casper City Council is now planning to instate a new ethics code.

They discussed this possibility during their Tuesday, Aug. 13 work session.

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“I think we do need a code,” Councilman Mike Huber said. “I think it is really important that we have something like this.”

He said that a code of ethics would give some “concrete guidance” when ethical issues arise.

Huber said that former Councilman Dallas Laird cautioned him against moving forward on such a code of ethics.

Casper Mayor Charlie Powell said that the previous code of ethics was looked at with some criticism.

“One of the criticisms that the code received was that it could be used as a weapon,” he said.

“I think we need to be thoughtful and thorough,” Powell added. “We need not just a majority, but a true consensus.”

Councilman Ken Bates said he’d like to have more time to go through and review the proposal before moving forward on putting a code of ethics formally in place.

Councilman Bob Hopkins said he was prepared to proceed and would like to see a code of ethics put in place.

Huber suggested bringing the proposed code back up during the next work session. Council agreed to this suggestion.

“This is something that needs to have a lot of careful thought to it,” he said.

City Attorney John Henley drafted a proposed code of ethics for the council to consider.

Powell asked him whether there were places in the draft code that he found difficulty wording.

Henley said that in the past nepotism sections of the code of ethics only referred to family members of officials or employees. He said that he added language to include people co-habitating under nepotism rules.

He suggested council pay attention to these sections and consider them carefully.

Huber said he’d like to see language added to the start of the code of ethics which would state that employees and officials were presumed to be acting in an ethical manner.

Another matter discussed was the ethical role council members have when acting as a liaison to other boards.

Powell said that as he understood it, council members were meant to participate on such boards in a way that attempts to represent the will and interest of the overall council.

The council agreed to ask Henley to add in such language to his draft.

The proposed code would prohibit city officials and employees from using their positions for private benefit in the form of accepting gifts.

Loans, gifts, gratuities and special discounts with less than $250 in value are not covered by this aspect of the proposed code.

The code would also include language to prohibit nepotism. It would prevent officials and employees from advocating for or causing family members to get positions or advancements in the city.

Individuals would be barred from using their positions, public funds, equipment or other resources for their own private benefit or for the private benefit of others.

The proposed code states that officials should not vote or make official decisions if they have personal interest in the issue.

Consequences of violating the code would include the possibility that employment could be terminated or officials could be removed from office.