This Tuesday, the Northfield Council will consider the creation of an Ethics Board.
The amendment to the city charter would establish a code of ethics, as well as a review and investigation process for complaints. In the event of an ethics violation, city officials would face administrative, criminal and civil penalties, such as public censure, fines, or removal from office. In addition, the city would be required to produce an annual report of the complaints received and how they were dealt with.
According to a memo to city officials from City Attorney Chris Hood the code would apply to all elected officials board and commission members and at the council's discretion, certain city employees. He also noted that the city's existing code of ethics only suffices to meet some, but not all, of the requirements entailed by the proposed change to the charter.
Such a process "could be expensive for the city to administer," City Administrator Tim Madigan wrote in a memo to the council. Madigan wrote that the city could incur substantial legal costs to set up a local legal process for the hearing of complaints. The city could also be obliged to pay for legal counsel to investigate the complaints and defend elected officials and employees in these cases. He offered no cost estimate, however.
The amendment to the city's governing document was brought forward by the Northfield Charter Commission. If approved, the amendment would become effective Jan. 3, 2014.
The matter will be discussed at tonight's council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at Northfield City Hall.