League Sends a Letter to City Council - 7/8/2018
Dear Denver City Council:
We are calling on you to vote no on bill 18-614. We remain concerned about proposed changes to the Code of Ethics to allow gifts of significant value from a city department or agency to councilpersons or other city leaders. By defining donor to include only outside entities restricts the scope of the code.
A change to the Code is not mandated by the November 21 advisory opinion by the Board of Ethics because the opinion aligns with the code as currently written. In fact, the Board of Ethics is actively opposing the change.
Councilperson Flynn has argued keeping the ethics code as written opens a “rabbit hole” of problems. For example, he believes it would make it hard for employees to go out to lunch together, to give promotional items at events, or to put poinsettias in Council offices at Christmas. The advisory opinion does not change these types of regular city interactions because there are already twelve exceptions included in the current code to allow these types of exchanges.
Gifts of business class airline tickets from the Department of Aviation (an enterprise as defined by the Colorado Constitution) to Council members, however, are prevented by Section 2-60(a)(6). As the council votes on contracts over $500,000 from agencies, there is the potential for a direct line between these gifts and decisions by the Council.
This is an issue that calls for transparency in order for the citizens of Denver continue to have faith and trust in their elected officials and the government process, particularly in the current climate of mistrust of public institutions. There is a strong appearance of impropriety when elected officials choose to unilaterally decide an issue, which directly benefits these individuals, without the consideration and input of the Board of Ethics and citizens of Denver.
We continue to oppose the proposed changes to the Code of Ethics to expand the scope of excepted gifts. Only a deliberative, collaborative, and cooperative process between the Council and the Board of Ethics culminating in a Council vote should be used to make such a substantial change to the Code.
League of Women Voters of Denver