Jerry Allen: City Hall Needs "A Clear Ethical Standard" to Remove Stench from Marilla

Categories: City Hall
RandySkinner.JPG
Randy Skinner
OK, so maybe stench is too strong a word. (Schutze is shaking his head no.) This is actually what council member Jerry Allen said when kicking off today's meeting of the council's Budget, Finance and Audit Committee: There's an "image problem" at City Hall, which has been "tainted by ethical acts, and the challenge for us is to find ways to establish a clear ethical standard and use it to reduce the negative perceptions that rightly exist with citizens."

Allen said yet another ethical overhaul isn't just his idea -- it's Mayor Mike's too. Remember? Sure you do. Thing is, Dallas has an Ethics Advisory Commission -- has since 2000. Which clearly ain't workin' out too well. So back to basics we go. Again.

Said Allen, it's time to "put in a new ethical culture at City Hall. This change is not going to happen overnight, winning back the trust of the citizens won't be easy, and we'll do this one brick at a time as we build back the foundation" of trust. At which point everyone held hands and sang a Billy Joel song. Or not.

Allen's remarks were by way of introducing Gary Morris and Michael Webb of the home Greater Dallas Business Ethics Award, which acknowledges companies that act above-board. Allen really, really wants that award, which Morris's group has been handing out since 2000 to "very positive beacons of ethical behavior in our community." And then there's Dallas City Hall.

Morris and Webb spent quite a while explaining ethics to the council committee, which includes Ann Margolin and Tennell Atkins, the latter of whom insisted, "We try to be fair, but we're not perfect." At one point, Morris made ethics awful simple to understand: "Do unto others are you would have them do unto you." But, said Atkins, this is "not something that'll happen overnight." And why not?

Because, as Margolin pointed out, City Auditor Craig Kinton is in the middle of doing an ethics audit of the city, which Allen said is due in about three months. "We're going to ask [for] a benchmark on where we're at when it comes to ethics and an ethics culture compared to other cities," Allen said, adding that the council is also asking the Ethics Advisory Committee to also "prepare a list of best practices ... and to review our code of ethics." Thirty days after that audit's turned in, Allen said, the commission will return with its findings and recommendations.

"And then, as the commission is doing this, I would hope that maybe we keep it as simple as possible," he said. "[Earlier in the meeting] we were talking about: Do not do anything your mother would be disappointed in you for. As I was talking to professors at SMU about this, they said, 'God was able to put it all into Ten Commandments on one piece of paper.' It's important we keep this simple."

At which point Randy Skinner, the chair of the Ethics Advisory Commission, chimed in, insisting that, look, the city's made "great progress" when it comes to writing guidelines for how elected officials ought to conduct themselves. But there's a long way to go, he said, especially since the city's inch-thick ethics rulebook "doesn't cover campaign contributions or the campaign cycle, which is where we seem to have some challenges. And it doesn't cover the clients -- the public -- we deal with."

The city, he said, also lacks "an understanding, maybe because of the culture we live in with so many moral compasses, [of] how do we conduct ourselves among each other. And then in the public arena it's also about perception. ... There is a perception if you do business with City Hall [that] you pay to play. That's where there's a challenge, there has to be an eduction in the public arena and even [among] the business entities. Some of them believe: 'If we're going to get something passed at City Hall, we have to make campaign contributions.' How do we make it a culture that filters down to the voting booth -- that ethical violations are not wanted, desired and will not be tolerated."

Morris said, look, that's easy: "Claim that moral high ground."

Allen liked that.

"Claim the high ground," he repeated. "Claim the high ground."

Wait, what's that, Jim? Sorry, Schutze is shaking his head again.
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12 comments
matilda of tuscany
matilda of tuscany

Between Preston Hollow/Park Cities buying South Dallas votes and North Dallas influence, I suggest one of the best ways to reduce campaign and ethics violations is to, "ANNEX THE PARK CITIES!"

Why, oh why does the Park Cities have so much impact on our Dallas elections and so little accountability on adding taxes and being impacted from those they paid to be elected?  Council, Mayor, Citizens of Dallas and Park Cities--you know it is true, you know it is time.  Either Annex the Park Cities or restrict campaign contributions and (hotel/tollway/sports arena, etc) from those who don't vote in Dallas--and an ethics violation to give money to citizens from outside sources to be used for those Dallas elections/votes.

Watching South Detroit
Watching South Detroit

Sounds like they just want to mount a public relations campaign instead of addressing specific issues - as in "we have the highest ethics - now bring the bribe money through the back door please".  Just saying you have ethics doesn't mean you have ethics.  People will know very soon if that is is joke - and in the city of Dallas it surely it.  Of course I am sure the city of Dallas will pay some consultant a big pile of money to "be ethical" and at some later date proclaim victory while doing the same crap they do now.

Schnoodle
Schnoodle

"We're going to ask [for] a benchmark on where we're at when it comes to ethics and an ethics culture compared to other cities," Sounds like my teenager when he makes a 60 on a test..."Hey, I didn't do so bad, the class average was 40!"  

Why are these imbeciles looking to do the right thing just a little better than another city?  Nobody seems to understand it's plain and simple - just do the right thing!  The problem is these folks are so far gone, they really don't know what the right thing is...that is if they ever did know right from wrong!

As usual, this "plan" ain't going nowhere. 

Sybils_Beaver
Sybils_Beaver

Was this the Wall-E announcement, if so, Super MEHHHHH

Daily Reader
Daily Reader

I guess they're working on this now that the Perot family has made their move into the inland port mess JWP and the Perot's started.  Little too late for ethics there.

NewsDog
NewsDog

Once we have ethics at City Hall they might be able to stop the fighting in the War Room. 

Gabe
Gabe

I prefer the term "mephistophelian mephitis". Or Faustian fetor. Or reprobate redolence. You know, whatever.

Pizzamike
Pizzamike

First the mayor was going to ban his political consultants from doing business at city hall then he suddenly changed his mind. A lot of that happening lately with the mayor. He is turning into a real politician - and that is not a compliment. 

Downtown_er
Downtown_er

I am sure this announcement is nothing more than that, just window dressing to appear concerned. Let the back room corruption continue, just be more discreet about it, and dont get caught, damn it!!! 

Tom L (No, Not That L)
Tom L (No, Not That L)

I say maybe stench is too weak a word. And nothing's going to clean the stench out of that place. I suppose in theory they could start by admitting that the Trinity River Floodroad ain't never gonna happen but, well, that ain't never gonna happen.

Ms Freedmans
Ms Freedmans

Have you been talking to my MOM, you both speak the same on this issue!

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

He turned into a politician when he gave Kathy Nealy a sack of money to "increase his name recognition" in south Dallas when running against Kunkle.

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