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Council Votes to Pursue Code Of Conduct

By Staff | Nov 27, 2009

On a tie vote broken by the mayor, Emmetsburg City Council will pursue a Code of Conduct for city officials. The council will also establish annual performance reviews for city personnel.

Mayor John Schad asked council representative Pam Smith to explain each of the issues.

“We had discussed this once, earlier, and some people were opposed to it so we didn’t actually go very far. We never voted on it,” Smith said about the proposed Code of Ethics. “Historically with the council there have been times when we’ve had some disagreements as far as procedures and that sort of thing.”

Smith pointed out that the Iowa Legislature starts their year with a Code of Ethics. And, the League of Cities also recommends a Code of Ethics.

“I think it’s a good idea and I’d like to at least have some discussion, enough to vote on it. It would be helpful to the council, particularly with people coming on the council, to know that these are the rules that we abide by.”

“Isn’t that why we have Robert’s Rules of order?” questioned councilman Pat Degen.

“That addresses procedure, but I don’t think it addresses other things like a Code of Ethics,” Smith replied.

“Are we talking about a Code of Ethics or a Code of Conduct?” asked City Administrator John Bird.

“I think it’s both,” answered Smith.

‘Ethics is a personal, individual thing,” Bird stated.

“I think ethics is a wrong word,” said councilman Brian Campbell. “I’d like to see perhaps a Code of Behavior, a Code of Conduct, which goes beyond Robert’s Rules of Order. How you’re personally going to conduct yourself. It’s going to be out there to be used as a guideline.

Council representative Sandy Pelzer said she had contacted the League of Cities and found that they are in the process of developing such a document and getting it on their website. The sample copy she received covered such things as equal votes, the chair (mayor) conducting the meeting, conduct at various events, at public meetings, with one another, at private events, council conduct toward city staff, conduct toward the public at public meetings, being fair and equitable, and allowing time for speakers at public hearings.

“I think it would be helpful, especially with a new person coming on, to know what are the expectations. You don’t sign it,” said Pelzer.

“It’s more like a list of suggestions,” Campbell added.

“A committee could pick and choose what’s put together and then, if the majority supports it, it would be something to fall back on for member to know what the expectations or parameters are as far as conduct,” said Smith.

Mayor Schad noted, “The agenda item is not to authorize it, but to authorize the mayor to appoint a committee to investigate. Anybody got a problem with that?

Smith made a motion to authorize the mayor to appoint a committee to investigate a Code of Conduct. Pelzer seconded the motion. Voting aye were Pam Smith, Sandy Pelzer and Brian Campbell. Voting no were Steve Finer, Pat Degen and Cory Gamowski. Mayor Schad broke the tie, voting aye. The motion passed.

Another item on the agenda was to review the city organizational chart and require annual performance reviews.

Smith explained, “Historically we’ve talked about reviews for city employees. We talked to John Bird about his performance review and how it had been some time since he had had a review. I’d like to see a decision about when and how that’s supposed to occur.

“We did have a discussion about that with John (Bird),” said Mayor Schad. “My personal feeling is that there has to be checks and balances with everybody. You have check and balance. I have check and balance. John needs a check and balance. Employees report to John and all we’d really be doing is organizing a performance review on an annual basis with the council and John. From that point on, you (Bird) would handle the rest of the reviews.

“I have no problem with that, as long as you understand that I do the performance reviews on the staff,” said Bird. He also pointed out that the department heads do all of their staff reviews.

“Where is the organizational chart that we were supposed to review?” questioned Smith.

“After we reorganized, I gave everybody an organizational chart. Is there something about that you want to change?” said Bird.

“No,” answered Smith. “I thought it would be helpful as far as talking about who reviews whom.

Mayor Schad noted, “We’re in agreement, everything the council does has to funnel through John (Bird) and then from John to the employees. Am I right on that?

City Attorney Brian Thul advised that is the type of city organization in place.

“What you don’t want is for somebody to think they have two bosses,” Schad said. “This doesn’t create it if we work with John (Bird). This is going to take more work later in setting up specifics and dates, etc. What we need is a motion to require an annual performance review.

Pelzer questioned if every city employee receives an annual review. Bird responded that not every employee is reviewed every year. The office staff was reviewed in April, however.

“I don’t remember the last time mine was done,” said Bird. “I think it’s been done twice since I’ve been here. If you want, I can give you a copy of the format they used.

Mayor Schad stated, “Nobody wants to impinge on your authority to decide the performance reviews of the subordinates. What we’re looking at is the council being mandated to perform an annual performance review with you. Is that where we are?

“Would the whole council sit down with you (Bird)?” questioned councilman Steve Finer.

“Those are the decisions that need to be made,” said the Mayor.

Bird explained that the last time the mayor and the council were all given the same format. The completed forms went back to the mayor and Bird met with the personnel committee to review the responses.

Smith made a motion to proceed with establishing annual performance reviews. Pelzer seconded the motion. Voting aye were Pam Smith, Brian Campbell, Sandy Pelzer, Cory Gramowski and Steve Finer. Voting no was Pat Degen. The motion passed.