Details of a newly proposed draft “Ethics Ordinance” for the City of Parkville are being hammered out by the town’s board of aldermen.
Though City Attorney Jack Campbell anticipated a 15-minute time allotment for discussion of the ordinance, his presentation consumed nearly an hour of the board’s meeting time Tuesday night when he was confronted by suggestions and inquiries on the nuances of the proposed legislation.
The ordinance directly addresses problems and issues that the city has confronted in its recent past and anticipates new ethical concerns as it continues to expand. Some of the key changes in the city’s policies involve areas where a conflict of interest may arise.
Campbell explained that the ordinance proposes to enforce more stringent standards on those in the city’s service to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. The ordinance promises to strengthen ethical standards far beyond those currently codified in Missouri laws and the city’s ordinances.
“You’ll see that this is a much stronger ordinance,” he offered.
The new ordinance would mandate that all members of the city’s boards and commissions as well as its employees attend a city-sponsored workshop on ethical standards. The requirement would extend to newly-elected or appointed and be made contingent with the individual’s service to the city.
Mayor Kathryn Dusenbery previously pushed for the requirement.
Alderman Dave Rittman’s request to draft the new ethics ordinance at the board’s April 19 meeting emanated from the fallout in the municipal election for Ward 1 Alderman on April 5. Newly-elected Alderman Deborah Butcher won by a razor-thin 16 vote margin over developer Tom Hutsler.
The election ultimately centered on a 2002 proposal for a cell tower near English Landing Center and the competing claims offered by the two candidates. Butcher’s campaign claimed that Hutsler supported the erection of the tower. It was an allegation that Hutsler vehemently denied.
To support her claim, Butcher went to selected members of the 2002 Planning and Zoning Commission to ask members to sign a prepared letter stating that Hutsler did not voice any objections at the meeting. While he never claimed to have raised opposition at the meeting, the letter was circulated with a cover letter intimating that it had come from the commission itself in its official capacity.
The appearance that it came from a city entity drew the ire of certain members of the board, as well as supporters of Hutsler.
Any staff member, elected official, or resident who is appointed to a board or commission may campaign for any candidate of his or her choice. The proposed ordinance, however, specifies that anyone who is currently serving the city may not evoke his or her position with the city in support of the candidate.
While the election hinged on the short-lived 2002 cell tower proposal, the board later unanimously authorized Dusenbery to proceed with contract negotiations with a provider to erect a tower at Grigsby Field. The location was approximately 1,000 feet away from the original site.
Butcher also supported the measure. She, however, asked the board this week to rescind the motion after she had an opportunity to view a similar structure at 125th Street and Quivira. She reported that the tower and supporting structure are more formidable than the board was led to believe.
Butcher argued that a more thoughtful investigation was in order. Her questions centered on the necessary height of the tower to serve the area, if the city could get a better offer from another provider, the placement of the tower at the field, and if there were better uses of the revenues to the city.
She also discounted the safety issues regarding 911 calls made from Parkville’s downtown being picked up by a tower on the Kansas side of the river.
While conceding the validity of the concerns, Alderman Marc Sportsman discounted that an imminent need existed to halt negotiations and suggested that all matters could be addressed in the process. Further, the board is not bound to accept the final plans or sign a contract.
Any opposition to the proposal is premised on the belief that the towers will ruin the vista view of the river valley. As the towers will be landscaped and camouflaged as lengthened flag poles, Sportsman pointed out an inherent contradiction as no one voiced concerns over the skylights on the field.
He summed up his incredulity: “Two flagpoles, problem. Multiple skylights, no problem.
Alderman Jack Friedman opposed suggestions that there were better uses of the city’s revenues from the tower. He approached city staff with the idea last fall to use revenues generated from leasing the land to the provider to fund lights at Grigsby Field to allow the Parkville Sluggers to play night games.
The lights would enable the Sluggers to play night games. Friedman argued that the increase in future sales tax revenues to the city would likely exceed the anticipated $13,000 that the city expects to receive from the towers.
He also reported that the Sluggers are off to a heroic start with a 4-1 record on the young season.
The Sluggers will play their first home game on Friday.
On the advice of Police Chief Bill Hudson, the board unanimously approved Noah Weigler and Travis Hampton as the newest additions to the city’s police department. Both will be employed as police officers.
Weigler put himself through the police academy at Missouri Western State College. Hampton attended the academy in Warrensburg. Hudson said that he believes that both officers will be good additions to the department.
Hampton’s employment is effective on June 21, as he is currently employed and wanted to give his employer two weeks notice.
Hudson explained, “He’s presently employed by Mosby but wants to move on up to the big city.”
Dusenbery announced that she and Rittman will meet with MAST on Thursday to discuss the city’s issues with the emergency service provider.
Rittman, who has led the debate on the issue of unacceptable response times from its current ambulatory service, believed that he isolated the hours of the longest response time to a two and one-half period (5:30 am – 8:00 am).
Friedman agreed to serve as the board’s representative to attend MARC’s meetings on its smoke free communities campaign.