Does the City of St Paul have a code of ethics for it’s elected officials so the public can be clear as well as elected officials when a situation erupts as happened in the Black Bear Crossings settlement? Underlying the $800,000 settlement is the personal relationship that’s between Councilperson Amy Brendmoen and the St Paul Director of Parks and Recreation Michael Hahm. Did it play a factor in St Paul’s interaction with Black Bear Crossings and the large settlement? Some people may believe it did, while others do not. The public may never know.
When one reviews conflict of interest guidelines/rules in Minnesota, they are mostly tied to personal relationships for financial gain. It appears none where a personal relationship can be tied in with policy change, killing of a proposal, or just using influence to make things happen. But maybe there should be. How it is defined is the tricky part, though. Should it be done on a state or local level?
Speaking with many people last week on the settlement, it is clear there needs to be some space for the elected official to do their work, their “constituent” advocacy, also to push and shove when need be with agencies, but there also needs to be rules to limit the undue influence when there appears to be a conflict of interest because of a personal relationship.
City leaders in City Hall may think it is not a big issue, personal relationships and conflict of interest, but the public gets it and do know what’s appropriate or not. The public just has broader definitions of conflicts of interest.
For your information:
Conflict of Interest definitions from other states: http://www.ncsl.org/research/ethics/50-state-table-conflict-of-interest-definitions.aspx