Hickenlooper’s Tap Dance on Ethical Reporting – Code Word: Red Tape

hick-scary.jpgMade an allusion in a prior entry to the world Mayor John Hickenlooper lives in as mirroring that of George W. Bush’s perception of what’s in the bests interests of America: big money, big egos–all at the expense of you and me, your children and your children’s children paying the bill, through taxes and bond indebtedness, to further their–the Hick’s and Dubya’s–particular “vision” of the future.

Now (who woulda’ thought!), we see Hickenlooper tap dancing on ethical issues and proposing that His executive authority trumps that of City Charter and Revised Municipal Code (codified ordinances), that ably establish ethical standards within the city structure. Sound familiar? Executive authority tantamount to that of the legislative branch. Methinks the Hick has taken a page from Dubya’s playbook.

Here’s the issue as reported by Daniel Chacon, Rocky Mountain News:

Mayor John Hickenlooper fears that disclosing all gifts to the city would create too much red tape, but an open-government group says the upcoming Democratic National Convention shows the need for such a law.

The Board of Ethics has proposed an ordinance that would require the city to report gifts of more than $250 and disclose the name of the donor.

“I certainly support the goals . . . but you have to balance that against the burdens of red tape,” Hickenlooper said Monday.

“The public certainly has a right to know, but at what expense?” Hickenlooper said. “Their right to know comes first, but you have to balance it with how much training, how much red tape, how many pieces of paper have to be checked off by how many managers in all the city agencies to make sure that we have a specific benefit.”

The City Attorney’s Office is instead proposing an executive order, which the mayor could change anytime, that would increase the reporting threshold to $5,000.

The executive order would allow anonymous gifts. The proposed ordinance would not unless an independent panel, such as the ethics board, granted a waiver.

Okay. Yeah, I know, the Hick ran for mayor as the businessman’s candidate. Cut out the red tape. Demand city agencies/employees conduct the city’s business as a businessman would a business. Indeed, the Hick recently ballyhooed a sparkling achievement during his time as a restauranteur by noting (in reference to the recent move by City Council to provide reasonable raises to city employees):

He said his bonus-pay program, which rewards city workers for fulfilling specific, data-driven goals, was similar to how he ran his restaurant business before he became mayor. Then, he helped drive down costs by giving dishwashers extra pay if they could reduce the amount of silverware they lost.” (Denver Post)

How do you lose silverware in a restaurant? I guess it loses itself. Just walks away and… You get the point. Likening, however, rewarding dishwashers for not “losing” silverware to, oh, say rewarding city planners for not drawing crooked lines or seasonal laborers for not digging a hole in the wrong place, begs the question: Where shall we place that inevitable, essential line that distinguishes the differences between running a city and running a business?

Ethics, of course, would be a good place to start.

The wherewithal by which the city maintains a commitment to ethical behavior is codified both within the Charter (Article I, Section 1.2.9) and the Denver Revised Municipal Code (Chapter 2, Article IV); legislation that establishes both a Board of Ethics and a Code of Ethics by which city functionaries–those elected, appointed and hired–must adhere. It is the Board of Ethics itself–as reported in the News–which has articulated via a proposed ordinance that the Code of Ethics must include a provision for the reporting (open to the scrutiny of the public), “gifts” to the city that exceed $250.00.

Leave it to the muddle-tongued Hick (foot in mouth disease), to articulate a circular argument against this attempt to infuse a much-needed addendum into the Code of Ethics. “The public certainly has a right to know, but at what expense? Their right to know comes first, but you have to balance it with how much training, how much red tape, how many pieces of paper have to be checked off by how many managers in all the city agencies to make sure that we have a specific benefit.”

Red tape; pieces of paper. Oh my! Be afraid. Be very afraid, the cost of transparency: the public’s right to know. “…a specific benefit…,” you say Mister Mayor? Um, believe you articulated the specific benefit yourself, sir: “The public certainly has a right to know…” Then, of course–as is your want–you slip-slid into your usual obfuscation of the issue by raising the specter of (usual suspects in the Hick’s litany of nasty governmental practices), red tape and pieces of paper, which, methinks, is a small price to pay for the SPECIFIC BENEFIT of the public’s right to know.

Then comes Assistant City Attorney Christopher Lujan who suggests, “There hasn’t been an instance where this type of legislation would have helped remedy a problem. We’re not disagreeing with transparency, but what we are saying is that it can’t be transparency above everything else.”

Oh, really? One cannot help but wonder what Mister Lujan’s “…everything else…” entails. One cannot help but wonder further why Mister Lujan views this proposed enhancement to the Code of Ethics as something designed to “…remedy a problem…” rather than as something designed to assure the public–you and me–have the ability to know who is “gifting” to the city and how much those “gifts” represent in real dollars. The consequence of this proposed public full disclosure of who gives and how much is not difficult to understand. Who ultimately benefits from this gifting? Whose back is being scratched? What reciprocity ensues from this gifting?

Truth-telling is that component of ethical behavior that establishes the extent to which one is perceived to possess integrity.

What aren’t you telling us, Mister Mayor?

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4 Responses to Hickenlooper’s Tap Dance on Ethical Reporting – Code Word: Red Tape

  1. hahahahaha says:

    Denver’s Code of Ethics is a joke. The Board of Ethics has no power to impose penalties. They can only recommend penalties. Never — not once — has the Board ever recommended a penalty or disciplinary action.

    The Board can choose to hold a hearing, but they do not conduct independent investigations. If a citizen or city employee blows the whistle and says, “Look at these facts. Isn’t this unethical?” the Board expects the complainant to conduct the investigation and prove a breach of ethics before they will consent to hold a hearing.

    The burden is totally on the citizen. The Board is not there to help expose and correct ethical lapses in city government. They are there to pretend ethical lapses don’t happen and, if they do, to make sure city officials are protected from investigation and consequences.

    In the case of Peter Chapman, the Board even acknowledged that there was a conflict of interest but granted a waiver anyway because it was “in the best interest of the city.” Denver officials can get a waiver to exempt themselves from ethical constraints. Whose interest does that serve?

    The Board turns a blind eye to conflict of interest all the time. Officials like Gallagher let city staff do politicking on city time. It was in the news that they were stuffing mailboxes at city hall with campaign fliers. Another day, another breach. The auditor’s office is a political consulting shop working for candidates from school board to city council. Getting paid for political work in addition to getting city paychecks. Whose interests are served?

    Denver’s Code of Ethics is a fig leaf to make it seem as if Denver is ethical. The Board is nothing but a bunch of cronies covering the butts of officials.

  2. georgeindenver says:

    Ah, Mister (Ms?) HaHa: Happy to provide a forum where you can vent. Not that I don’t necessarily disagree with many of your conclusions (the members of the Board of Ethics are, after all, appointed, half by the Mayor, half by the Council…a political process in itself). Of course, your comments didn’t speak to my post, but your comments do raise an interesting question: If the Board of Ethics is so ineffective and peopled with political slugs, why is the Hick so concerned with the Board-inspired ordinance that would require public reporting of so-called “gifts” to the city (who gave and how much)? Why does he oppose this measure with such inarticulate fervor?

  3. hahahahahaha says:

    Scrutiny of private donations to the city has already cost the police dept a large gift from a charity that wished to go unnamed. Remember all the news articles about this? Hickenlooper couldn’t guarantee anonymity for the donor so the donor took the money elsewhere.

    The public has a right to know who is funding city programs and services but Hickenlooper thinks we shouldn’t care.

    It’s all about conflict of interest. Private donations for public services have the potential to generate hairy conflicts of interest. Our mayor is untroubled by such conflicts because they usually serve his interests, not the interests of the public. The Peter Chapman affair is just another example.

    It’s not as if Hick is worried that the Code of Ethics might require more reporting of private gifts. It’s more that he resents the hell out of anyone trying to regulate his fundraising efforts. He went out and raised the money. We should all be grateful and not ask so many questions.

    He opposes the reporting requirements because he does not want anything to hinder his ability to raise money, damn whatever strings are attached to that money.

  4. georgeindenver says:

    Ah, HaHa. “The road goes on forever and the party never ends.”

    Wonder why the “charity” you note who wanted to donate to the DPD didn’t want to be identified? The specter of conflict of interest is, of course, raised.

    The Peter Chapman affair is, of course, nothing new. One does recall the Michael Frontera affair back in ’96 – ’98, with regard to the Election Commission’s purchase of the Sequoia voting machines.

    http://georgeindenver.blogspot.com/search?q=michale+frontera

    As I said, “The road goes on forever and the party never ends.”

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