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Keeping the City of Olympia Honest

The Local Good Governance Coalition, which consists of several Thurston County civic groups focusing on housing and environmental issues, recently voted to send a letter to the City of Olympia to urge them to adopt a code of ethics, which it does not currently have.

Several other Washington cities, including Tacoma and Redmond, have recently adopted codes of ethics to address the gaps in current law that allow conflicts of interest, and to establish clear guidelines for ethical behavior for its officials, employees and contractors.

In the absence of a city-specific ethics code, the reliance for good governance of City Council members and City Officers, elected and appointed, is dictated in the Olympia City Council Guidebook as well as established at the broader state level.

The City Council Guidebook however only applies to City Council members, not to all city employees or entities, and the City Council Guidebook is not codified law. Addressing the unique challenges and circumstances faced by cities such as Olympia cannot be accomplished by relying on the State Ethics in Public Service Act. This deficiency led to this citizen initiated effort to urge the City to adopt a more detailed and encompassing ethics code.

To learn more and/or support the establishment of an ethics code in Olympia, please visit olyethics.org

THIS IS THE LETTER BELOW

To the City Council of the City of Olympia,

We, the undersigned individuals and organizations of Olympia, are writing to express our support for a code of ethics and ethics commission for the City of Olympia.

A city code of ethics and commission is essential to ensuring that our City elected officials, appointed officials, employees, and entities act in an ethical manner and that our City is operated in a transparent and accountable way to further public trust.

The benefits of having an ethics code are:

  • It enhances the credibility and reputation of the City government as a trustworthy and responsible entity that serves the public interest;

  • It provides clear and consistent guidance and standards for City Officials and employees on how to conduct themselves ethically in various situations;

  • It prevents or reduces ethical dilemmas, conflicts of interest, misconduct, corruption, or abuse of power by City officials and employees;

  • It fosters a positive work environment and culture that values honesty, integrity, professionalism, respect, accountability, and excellence;

  • It promotes transparency and accountability by requiring reporting and disclosure of relevant information by commission and by City officials or employees;

  • It encourages dialogue and feedback from the public on ethical issues and challenges facing the City government;

  • It supports continuous improvement and innovation by allowing amendments or revisions to the ethics code based on changing needs or circumstances;

The code of ethics should include a number of important provisions, including:

  • A prohibition on any actual or potential conflicts of interest;

  • A prohibition on City officials and City entities, including any boards, commissions, committees, departments, offices, and agencies of the City, from membership in any organization that has business before the City, or lobbies the City, i.e. attempts to influence the passage of legislation by the City Council, or the adoption or rejection of any rule, standard, rate, or other legislative enactment of any City entity; and

  • The creation of an independent and competent commission that has the authority and resources to provide education and training, issue opinions, investigate complaints, conduct hearings, and advise the council on sanctions or remedies for violations, and updates to the ethics code; and

  • Any other provisions that conform to RCW 42.36 (Appearance of Fairness Doctrine-Limitations) and 9A.68 (Bribery and Corrupt Influence) and state Constitution Article 2, Sections 30 (Bribery or Corrupt Solicitation), and that further the public trust and ensure that our City government is serving the interests of all of its residents.

We urge you to create a code of ethics for the City of Olympia, referencing the comprehensive ethics code resources of the Municipal Resources Services Center, that adopts the provisions mentioned herein, or form a stakeholder group, that includes the Local Good Governance Coalition, to create a code of ethics for the City to adopt as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Local Good Governance Coalition
Olympia WA

Member Organizations of the LGGC:
Black Hills Audubon Society
Clean Black Lake Alliance
League of Women Voters, Thurston County
Olympia Indivisible
Olympians for Smart Development and Livable Neighborhoods
People of Color Community Coalition
Rights of Nature Initiative
South Puget Sound Habitat for Humanity
South Sound Sierra Club
Thurston Climate Action Team

 

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