PALM SPRINGS – Have some City Councilmembers overstepped their bounds – and their roles – to the degree the City Council tonight (Jan. 23) will consider adopting a Code of Conduct?
If adopted, failure to comply with the Code of Conduct could ultimately lead to censure, reprimand, and more.
The purpose of the Code of Conduct is to define the role of elected officials in governing the city, according to the proposed Resolution. The suggested Code consists of policies and rules intended to provide efficient and responsive services to residents – and provide a safe and productive work environment for its employees.
The proposed Code of Conduct leaves no question who is in charge at City Hall. The City Council has direct authority over the city manager and city attorney. All other employees of the city are under the city manager’s direct authority.
The proposal was drafted by a subcommittee that included Councilmembers Lisa Middleton and Christy Holstege. They began the process in spring 2018, Middleton said. It is built on a model used in the city of West Hollywood.
“The Code of Conduct sets forth proper expectations of how we should behave not only on the City Council but also on city boards and commissions,” Middleton said. “It is a restatement of longstanding principles. It is important to get the rules clear and simple in advance of trouble.”
Following are a sample of proposed rules:
- Councilmembers shall not direct, order or make demands on any city employee, other than inquiries that can be answered routinely and without research and support requested in accordance with a protocol established by the City Manager.
- With the exception of the City Manager and City Attorney who work directly for the City Council, Councilmembers shall not attempt to reorganize an employee’s priorities or influence the manner by which city staff perform their assigned functions or duties. City employees are directed in their everyday tasks by their immediate supervisor in accordance with approved work plans.
- Councilmembers shall not retaliate or threaten to retaliate against employees as a result of disagreements over policy recommendations.
- Councilmembers shall not threaten a city employee with disciplinary action.
- Councilmembers shall not make representations or promises to any third party regarding the future actions of the city or of the body of which they are a member, unless such representation or promise has been duly authorized by the appropriate body.
- When Councilmembers engage in conversations with residents, applicants, developers, lobbyists and officials of other governmental agencies, they should be cautious not to make representations or promises that they cannot legally make or keep. Future actions of a legislative body cannot be promised or predicted with certainty. Individual Councilmembers do not have authority to make commitments on behalf of the city unless expressly authorized to do so by the body of which they are a member.
- When making public utterances, Councilmembers shall make it clear whether they are authorized to speak in an official capacity on behalf of the body of which they are a member, or whether they are presenting their own views.
Uken Report asked Middleton if there have been specific instances in which a councilmember has overstepped or any employees threatened. Middleton declined to comment.
City Manager David H. Ready told Uken Report, “There is a City Council subcommittee that was formed to review the conduct policy — members Holstege and Middleton. They wanted to review and update.” He did not elaborate.
You may read the entire proposed Resolution here.
In addition to unequivocally stating councilmembers’ roles, the Code of Conduct addresses city-issued proclamations.
According to the proposed Resolution, Proclamations should generally be issued on behalf of the entire City Council and signed by each member of the City Council. Individual City Councilmembers may opt out of signing a proclamation or ceremonial statement by the city.
Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon was booed amid chants of “vote him out” that erupted during the “March for Our Lives” Rally in the community as an estimated 2,000 people gathered to protest gun violence in the nation. The jeers erupted after one of the student speakers announced that Moon, elected to a four-year term in November 2015, had refused to sign a proclamation declaring March 24 as March For Our Lives Day in the City of Palm Springs.
Moon is up for re-election in November should he decide to run in the new district-based method.
“Proclamations should be issued on behalf of the entire City Council by the entire City Council, Middleton said.
Despite the mayor’s refusal to sign a Proclamation, the students were still able to secure their requested proclamation courtesy of Councilmember Geoff Kors, who was also elected to a four-year term in 2015. Kors not only signed the proclamation but also certificates of appreciation for the student speakers and organizers. Kors is also up for re-election this year.
The goal of enforcement of this Code of Conduct is corrective, rather than penal, and a progressive approach to curing violations shall be employed, beginning with informal methods and proceeding to more formal methods as necessary, according to the Resolution.
“If appropriate, informal counseling and instruction (including referral to the Employee Assistance Program if appropriate) shall be utilized to correct the official’s behavior prior to recommending imposition of sanctions. If less drastic measures fail, the City Council may in a public meeting impose one or more of the following sanctions:
• Travel or expense reimbursement restrictions
• Loss of committee or liaison assignments
• Removal from an appointed commission or board
• Loss of staff support or use of City resources
• Restrictions on access to City facilities
• Other penalties as may be applicable under the circumstances
The City Council meets today, Jan. 23, at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chamber of City Hall at 3200 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way.