By Susan Wallerstein
NORWALK, Conn. – Tuesday night Common Council members will be asked to vote on the reappointment of Elizabeth Broncati and Jack English to the Board of Ethics. This will be an interesting test of our elected officials’ commitment to the City of Norwalk Code of Ethics. Will council members find it acceptable to reappoint two people who serve on a board that met only twice in 2012? Will they find it acceptable to reappoint individuals who serve on a board that does not seem to have fulfilled two important requirements spelled out in the Code of Ethics?
32-12 Board of Ethics – Powers and duties
- (h) On or before June 1 of each year, the Board of Ethics shall submit to members of the Common Council, the mayor and the corporation counsel a written report, which shall include, but not be limited to, a summary of its activities and recommendations for improvements in the Code of Ethics.
- (i) The Board of Ethics shall hold or sponsor at least one educational program for the city and its employees, officers and agencies before March 31 of each year.
Or, will the two people whose names are being recommended for reappointment get the 11 votes they need to continue with business as usual on an important board, a board responsible for setting the standard of ethical behavior in our city? Will it still be OK for the administration to be inconsistent and haphazard in maintaining the city’s website as the “official” legal list of those who serve on boards and commissions?
While the Ethics Board requires four people to make a quorum, three members’ terms apparently expired last March (2012) and one member up for reappointment is not listed. Will it still be OK for the board to meet once or twice a year and to conduct business without a quorum? The Jan. 24, 2013 minutes (draft) posted on the city’s website shows five members in attendance, one member whose term expired last year, and another whose name is not currently listed on the website but is up for reappointment tomorrow night. However this didn’t stop those present from voting to go into executive session for reasons which on the surface don’t seem to follow Freedom of Information Act rules: … for purposes of discussion and clarification of the code of ethics guidelines.
Yes, the council will face yet another important decision tomorrow night. Conduct business as usual, or insist on transparency and accountability? Reappoint current board members who have not fulfilled their responsibilities or appoint new members who are committed to meeting regularly and following the letter and the spirit of our city’s Code of Ethics?
Susan O. Wallerstein
Editors note: The writer says she has previously expressed an interest in serving on the Board of Ethics in writing to most if not all members of the Common Council.