August 20, 2019

Ethics Complaint Update

As you may know, Marion Olson filed another round of ethics complaints against sitting City Councilors, former City Councilors, the City Attorney, and the City Manager. I’m not among those Ms. Olson alleges to have violated the city’s ethics code but the situation is made more complicated because so many folks are. The long and short of it is this: our code is really unclear regarding the process we are supposed to follow when a citizen claims that someone on Council or with the city staff violated the ethics code. Given that, it seemed prudent to first take a step back and figure out, as best we can, exactly what process we should follow. To that end, last week I proposed that City Council hire a credible, independent special counsel to review our code, the minutes of the City Council meetings where that code was discussed and adopted, and any other relevant documents in order to make a recommendation about what process we should follow. After some discussion at our meeting last week, City Council voted 4-0 (the other three had recused themselves) to adopt my proposed resolution. The next step will be a proposal to Council for selecting an independent special counsel. I’ll write more on this as the process unfolds.

I haven’t figured out how to upload my memo to City Council or the resolution to the blog we adopted but am happy to email those documents to anyone who wants them.


  1. Rusty Shakleford says:

    What is the specific allegation in the complaint? I don’t this has been reported anywhere.

  2. goldenvoices says:

    The original allegation has to do with City Council’s decision (before I was elected in April 2005) to cover the legal fees incurred by two City Councilors (Karen Oxman and Mayor Chuck Baroch) in defending themselves against a lawsuit filed by Marion Olson. The complaints basically allege that the Councilors who voted to cover these fees (everyone on Council but Councilor Oxman and Mayor Baroch, both of whom recused themselves) violated the ethics code by doing so. The other complaints allege violations of the ethics code by Councilor Oxman and Mayor Baroch for accepting the city’s covering of their legal defense expenses and of the City Attorney for his role in the process. The City Manager, in accordance with the ethics code (or at least one reasonable interpretation of the code) concluded that none of the complaints had any merit and he dismissed them all. The second round of complaints were basically all identical except that they included a new complaint alleging that the City Manager mishandled the original complaints.

    Clear as mud?