The Ethics Board chose their direction today, by taking their lead from the Mayor. They let him define the terms and the tone of the conversation, and thus the result. Several people have taken the position that there is some ambiguity in the Ethics Code between whether there is a limit on how much value elected officials can accept in invitations to charitable events or if there is no limit (either in donated or recognized tax value). I happen to disagree, I think it is very clear, if somewhat overly restrictive. I think the Ethics Code says clearly that elected officials should not accept invitations to events over $100 singly or $250 collectively, whether sporting, charitable or otherwise. But the Mayor today suggested no limits on entry to charitable events, and the Ethics Board agreed. Now, I think its dandy to encourage city involvement in charity, but the Ethics Board has taken it on themselves to rewrite the code the City Council originally wrote. Or rather, they let the Mayor define things for them.
The Board wants to look at developing some guidelines for the Mayor. That’s fine, except again its not their job. No one elected them, they were appointed. They should make a recommendation to City Council.
The Mayor also apparently said words to the effect of not wanting to accept specific limits on his attendance at charitable events, regardless of the wishes of the Ethics Board. This is apparently an application of the theory of the Unitary Executive, who doesn’t recognize limitations placed on his behavior by city code, as long as he is engaged in what he defines as city business or charitable work or both.
It is good for a Mayor to have a presence at charitable events. Maybe the no limit thing isn’t so bad. In any event, it appears to be a fait accompli. But where exactly is the work on the city’s future? Have you renegotiated the “voluntary” contribution with the non-profits, Mayor? What’s your plan for two years from now, to follow through on your swing when you drive?