Denton voters demanded ethics reform at the ballot box

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The Old Courthouse in Denton, TX

Denton’s city leaders will have to recuse themselves from participating in any discussion in any matter that comes before city council if they have a conflict of interest, according to an overwhelming vote on Election Day.

More than 87 percent of the city’s voters agreed to change the ethics language in the city charter, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported Wednesday. With the ethics rule now law, the City Council are now required to have the ethics language set in stone.

According to the Record-Chronicle, the ethics provision includes:

Elected and appointed officials shall recuse themselves from any discussion or agenda item wherein a conflict or appearance of conflict of interest may exist. Recusal shall mean not only not voting but also not participating in discussions, deliberations or lobbying regarding the matter or closely related matters, either in the public forums or otherwise.

Conflict of interest shall be at a minimum as defined in the state law and more stringent in that percentage of ownership shall not be greater than 2 percent or $500, whichever is less, nor income derived be greater than $1,000 for either prior or current year. Conflict criteria shall apply to officials and appointees who have financial relationships with parties in the issue.

Ethics complaints shall be heard by a three-person panel with mediation and arbitration experience. The council should appoint no fewer than seven people to a pool for those panels.

There are other provisions as well.

Denton Mayor Chris Watts said he would like to get the rules on the books before the end of the year.

From the Record-Chronicle:

The City Council needs to decide how members want to proceed and the time frame to do the work. Members should also decide how they want to gather information, including sample ordinances and public input, Watts said.

He didn’t think the council would have a difficult time now that the voters have spoken.

“It’s going to take some time and we’ll need to have some candid conversations, but we’ve done that before and we can do it again,” Watts said. “We’ll hash it out and get whatever resources we need.”

You can read the full story here.

Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.

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