Edmonds City Council wraps up communications training

council part 3

Friday’s communications session.

The final group session of training for the Edmonds City Council, mayor and staff on how to improve communications and become “high-performing” was held Friday morning at the Plaza Room of the Edmonds Library.

The session began with one hour with just he Council, so they could deal with issues between councilmembers and then finished up with two hours more with the mayor and city staff.

Everyone was willing to go out on a limb and be quite open with each other. There were some notable exchanges between Council President Diane Buckshnis and Councilmember Joan Bloom to start things off. Before too long, all the member started to open up and while sometimes uncomfortable, the interactions proved to be quite useful

The same thing continued once the larger group convened.

Unfortunately, while much good progress was made, much remains to be done. Several Councilmembers expressed and interest extending the contract with Consultant, Jim Reid.

My Edmonds News has recorded all sessions of the training so citizens can watch for themselves. Friday’s segment is on My Edmonds News TV here.

– By Harry Gatjens

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30 Comments

  1. Thanks to Teresa and Harry for making the effort to provide this video so that citizens can view it. I hope many will choose to do so.

    Edmonds is a Code City – A majority of the entire membership of the council is required to vote for passage of any ordinance, grant, revocation of franchise or license, or any resolution for the payment of money (RCW 35A.12.120). The mayor may not break a tie vote on any of these matters.

    One thing that was discussed Friday is that the Council President is the only Council Member who can SINGULARLY ask the City Attorney to draft an Ordinance. That is a pretty powerful privilege – I believe an example being the recent urgent, retroactive EDC/Plunkett Ordinance.

    As this powerful, singular privilege is directly related to Ordinances that cannot be voted on by the Mayor – was it proper and ethical for Mayor Earling to break the tie vote for Council President in January?

    Please recall the following comments by Council Member Fraley-Monillas:

    “Most amazing to me was to have expected a fair decision to be made from a mayor that actively participated, supported, financed and appeared in ads for my opponent two months ago,” Fraley-Monillas said. “Some may say it’s politics; I call it a breach in all of our democracy.”

    Many months have now passed since the bizarre process related to electing the Council President and Council Pro Tem in early January.

    My opinion is that conduct such as this coupled with no explanation related to the conduct impairs the citizen’s ability to trust the City.

    I’ve only watched the first hour of the video- looking forward to watching the rest of the meeting. It is time well spent in my opinion.

  2. What a waste of tax payers’ money!

  3. Ken, The city attorney was there. If it was improper he should have said so and if he is wrong maybe the city deserves better.

  4. Ken, You usually are very factual but to call the the correcting of the CEDC ordinance the EDC/Plunkett ordinance I believe is incorrect.

  5. Good point Don – you are right, I was lazy and didn’t look hard enough to find the related Ordinance Number. I looked at the Ordinance list on the City’s website and it wasn’t there yet so I wrongly gave it my own name. I should have reviewed the May 20th minutes, which is where I could have found that it was Ordinance 3970. Please accept my apology.

    Regarding whether or not the Mayor’s tie-breaking vote was improper – I am not limiting the answer to just whether or not is was legal. I fear legal doesn’t always have to be ethical. I’m concerned about ethics, which is one of the reasons I think we need an ethics code, ethics commission, etc.

  6. Ken no reason to apologize. I am afraid Edmonds will never have an ethics code. How you doing

  7. I hope we are able to establish and enforce a Code of Ethics. So many cities have been able to do so – Edmonds should be able to accomplish the same.

    As I have stated before, I really like Shoreline’s Code of Ethics. Shoreline applies its standards and guidelines to ALL employees, the City Council and appointed officials such as the Planning Commission and Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Board.

    One Shoreline Code of Ethics that I believe Edmonds needs to adopt is:

    “Not knowingly violate any Washington statutes, City ordinance or regulation in the course of performing their duties.”

    It is sad that such an ethics standard even has to be mentioned, but I believe Shoreline had good cause to include it.

  8. It is interesting that NOBODY in our government in the City of Edmonds is standing up for a CODE OF ETHICS and moving forward to implement one.

    This is not something that pertains to shades of gray. It is quite black and white, as are the STATE, FEDERAL, CITY LAWS that govern this DEMOCRACY. The United States is a country of LAWS that keep us civilized. The citizens of Edmonds should DEMAND that our government (ALL of our government, including ALL commisions and departments) have a CODE OF ETHICS,

    And speaking of LAWS, our Federal Government is broke, so they are quite happy to implement larges fees (and jail time where applicable) for those breaking laws, ordinances, regulations, etc. Our FBI puts out a very long list of the unethical people/groups they are catching up with EVERY day. Our Department of Justice is out there fighting for JUSTICE EVERY day, and in regards to breaking the law, bending rules, regulations, fraud, etc. they want to HEAR ABOUT IT! They don’t care how high up you are, they will get you at some point.

    Our city having a CODE OF ETHICS will ATTRACT GOOD BUSINESS!

  9. During the May 30th special meeting workshop for the Mayor, staff leaders and Council, Mayor Dave Earling stated that a feeling of trust needs to be established.

    Mayor Earling stated that staff simply does not feel as though they are trusted . . . period.

    Mayor Earling stated that staff is often times asked for a report. Sometimes staff’s report is based on fact, sometimes it is based on opinion. Mayor Earling emphasized that either one should be accepted as true and that we should trust what staff says. I believe Mayor Earling was referring to elected officials when he used the term “we”.

    I am curious what others think of Mayor Earling’s last comment that we should accept staff’s reports as TRUE and that we should trust what staff says.

    I guess in a perfect world it would be nice if the City Council could simply accept staff’s representations as true. I do hope and believe that the majority of what is represented is truthful. However – What should the Council to do when it knows that staff has on occasion provided false or incomplete information in the past? With such knowledge – Would it be proper and ethical for the Council to simply trust that everything staff says is TRUE?

    I believe trust is earned, not simply granted out of respect for another person’s position or professional expertise.

    One way to try and start to rebuild a certain level of trust is to apologize for and address historical City conduct. If the City is unwilling to voluntarily do so, how can the City ask to be trusted?

    Another way to promote more trust is to establish and enforce a solid, comprehensive Code of Ethics, one that applies to all three branches of the City Government including Mayor, staff and Council. Many cities have been able to accomplish such and Edmonds should be able to do the same.

  10. Is the thought that having a “code of ethics” will make council and city staff suddenly work together more seamlessly and remove tension? I suppose we can draft a set of principles of conduct that will guide decision making and behavior – and then we can establish a code of ethics police force to ensure it is enforced…and yes, I’m being a bit sarcastic.

    OR…those in leadership could embrace what every human being should embrace – respect for others, despite different values and beliefs. A code will not change one’s approach to dealing with another if there is not attitude and character change among those in a leadership position.

  11. A Code of Ethics will not magically do anything. It will instead set out the Ethical rules for everyone and provide a codified framework by which the business of and for the City Gets done. It is not to change the behavior of anyone but will provide a cofidied set of expections which brings accountability to and much needed daylight to the process of government. It will be just another tool to making the process as just as it can be.

  12. Usually people that are ethical do not bend or break laws. Unethical people bend and break laws ALL THE TIME.

    Asking our government to have a code of ethics and transparency goes along with the swearing in process……This is the government that runs our city……Who would say in ANY city or state that it would be okay to have unethical people running their government or working in their government……….An ethical standard is a GOOD thing, and why should ANYBODY object to this or say it is a gray area? Do we want unethical people in our government or its staff? How could we trust them? It’s not about a code of behaviour….It’s about ETHICS! It’s about the law and how the law is applied

    The “trust me” in government just isn’t enough…..We need action based on a CODE OF ETHICS! We have two, SEPARATE entities in our government in Edmonds with EQUAL standing, both of which must function ETHICALLY, including staff, and then TRUST will happen…..Without it, there is no trust, and THAT is what we have right now.

  13. I think you are missing my point – a code of ethics is only effective if those in leadership will honor it. Ethics are ethics – and Tere, unfortunately, we have unethical people in office all across this country – even in cities and state governments (and the FEDS I might mention) where we have Code of Ethics.

    I’m not opposed to a Code of Ethics – but regardless of whether one exists or not, those who are elected must simply possess ethics – trust is not built from a code of ethics, but rather from two individuals staying true to what they commit to each other – and through open lines of communication. Trust is built from relationship, not from some document.

  14. I believe trust is built through ethical CONDUCT. Two or more individuals can decide together to do something wrong/unethical. If those involved have a strong enough RELATIONSHIP to stay committed to each other, harm can be done.

    We know that those elected to office, those employed by the City as well as ALL people don’t simply, by default, possess ethics and always represent what is TRUE. The more I think about Mayor Earling’s major point of emphasis that staff’s representations should be accepted as TRUE, the more concerned I am that he wants to deny reality. This is hard to understand as I expect that he is very aware of what has taken place in the past. I agree strongly with Tere . . .”The “trust me” in government just isn’t enough….”

    D Talmadge’s post is excellent – a Code of Ethics will be “just another tool to making the process as just as it can be”.

    Establishing an independent Ethics Board is another tool which should help increase the likelihood that leadership will honor a Code of Ethics.

  15. I can guarantee you that there are ETHICAL people in our Justice Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, ICE, U.S. Attorneys Offices, for each state, State Patrol, Local LE, etc thousands! taking down people EVERY day that break the law and are unethical, including anyone in the government that breaks the law…… To check this, you can get on the mailing lists to see what is happening EVERY day in regards to crime, current and past. Yes, there may be a few unethical (of the total), but to say there are many across the country in our government simply is not true, and speaking of LOW EXPECTATIONS of those we elect.

    I believe this country was built with people always aspiring to that higher ground……Not the LOWER ground because there are other out there…..We’re not some rogue third world country…..We don’t shoot from the hip like the old west and make up laws, bend laws as we go.

    If we have people in our government here in Edmonds bending laws, breaking laws, cronyism, etc. we need to have them step down. ………Our Justice Department is very clear about this. Everything regarding ethics and the law are spelled out in detail. Just because everybody hasn’t been caught yet does not mean we should aspire to the low ground with these people. .

  16. To your point Ken, CONDUCT is required – but that stems from individual character, not a written code. And Tere, perhaps your experience is different than mine – while I work with many fine leaders across this country, I also have experienced the “dark rooms” where deals are made…one doesn’t have to look far to see how those who were in a position to lead and do right for our Veterans chose to “game the system” and set up secret lists in order to achieve a bonus…and yet, we have a Code of Ethics in the VA.

  17. Is there a class in ethics in the Edmonds School District? Curios. I learned ethics at home, church, school and military service. Working in sales my entire life I found little ethics and a lot of what’s in it for me. Seems to me your are ethical or not, doubt a code will change that, A code would not be a bad idea and would provide a line for the unethical to be guided or disciplined if necessary.

  18. Hi Mike, I don’t think I ever stated that ethical conduct stems from a written Code of Ethics. If so, I was on the wrong track. A Code of Ethics is not a foundation of an individual’s character or conduct. Rather, a Code of Ethics can be a tool to promote high ethical standards, accountability and clarify expectations for behavior. For example, the City of Shoreline states that it makes a determined effort to promote and sustain an ethical culture grounded in values such as fairness, transparency, honesty, integrity, commitment, and stewardship.

    Hopefully the VA’s Code of Ethics will be a useful tool. I think it is much better to have a Code of Ethics than to not have one. Violations of a Code of Ethics should be taken very seriously, and I think it helps to utilize an Ethics Board that is independent when such is possible.

    Any thoughts on Mayor Earling’s major point of emphasis that staff’s representations need to be accepted as TRUE?

  19. A Code of Ethics is like any other code or law. It is a guideline for behavior. The argument that there shouldn’t be a code of Ethics because behavior cannot be legislated runs counter to our system of justice. Laws tell us how we are expected to behave. Whether we do it or not is up to us.
    Currently in Edmonds, if there is a conflict of interest that an elected official has with an issue, that official decides whether to declare it or not. It is perfectly legal ( or it can be) to say nothing. Under a Code of Ethics it would not be, and would be subject to review.
    As I have always seen it, a Code of Ethics bridges the gap between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.

    • According to what I have read in Justice Department reports, it is NOT “perfectly legal” for a sworn officer of government to just say nothing when he or she KNOWS that a law is being broke. That sworn official is just as guilty by not doing anything. People that do this are brought down by our Justice Department EVERY day. I realize there are people that do this and don’t get caught, but that does not make it ok and “legal” just because they have not been caught…….WHY would we want anyone in our government turning a blind eye when they KNOW laws are being broke.

      We are ALL expected to follow the rule of LAW…… not just SOME of us, but ALL of us, elected or not. I suppose some lawyer could come up with a good SPIN, YES! of course…….But is THAT what we want? Nobody is ABOVE the LAW…..I thought Watergate showed that a long time ago…..THAT isn’t the kind of country we want

  20. I’m certainly not opposed to a Code of Ethics, as I mentioned. It will require an independent board to enforce…otherwise you can (not always) have the wolves guarding the hen house…to Tom’s point, I too learned ethics from my parents, church, and the military…and while there is a code (sometimes unwritten in the case of my parents), I did know that there were consequences for my less than appropriate actions…which was needed when I was a teen at times.

    At some point, adults need to take responsibility for their actions and conduct themselves with respect and honor, regardless of a code. My experience has shown that at times leaders will say, “I didn’t violate the code”…but they sure did walk the line on spirit and intent.

    Here’s my final point: A code is not a bad thing; it won’t solve all things. So look at who you vote into leadership positions. Is honor, integrity, handwork, honesty, respect part of their virtues? If so, then regardless of a code they will conduct themselves appropriately.

  21. A discussion regarding a Code of Ethics took place during the July 8, 2014 Public Safety and Personnel Committee Meeting. Following are the related Committee Meeting Minutes:

    B. Discussion regarding Code of Ethics

    Councilmember Fraley-Monillas provided Shoreline’s Code of Ethics that was distributed at last week’s Council meeting (Councilmember Peterson was absent from that meeting). Committee members reviewed the General Code of Conduct in the City’s Personnel Policies that covers staff.
    Councilmember Fraley-Monillas offered to revise Shoreline’s Code of Ethic to change “officials” to “elected officials” and send a redline version to Councilmember Peterson and City Attorney Jeff Taraday.

    I believe there is a great need for a Code of Ethics that governs the conduct of the City’s elected and appointed officials and employees. Enforcement of the Code of Ethics is critical component of this concept and an independent Ethics Officer or Ethics Board may be beneficial. For example, the City of Monroe utilizes a 5 member Ethics Board to issue advisory opinions on the provisions of its Code of Ethics and to investigate and report to the City Council on any alleged violations of its Code of Ethics.

    Hopefully redlines will not be employed or other efforts made that reduce those subject to a Code of Ethics.

    My opinion is that the General Code of Conduct in the City’s Personnel Policies is inadequate and that it is not clear how this Code of Conduct is enforced. For example, how would a citizen of Edmonds request a Code of Conduct investigation? Who would conduct the investigation and who would be responsible to take any necessary related action?

  22. Ken I attended the meeting. I brought up enforcement and without it there is no point in having a code of ethics. Council member AFM, thought there should be something but maybe the council should handle complaints and do it in executive session. I of course didnt think that is a good idea.. You are right on the code of conduct it was gutted of any enforcement ,just a waste. Lets see what they come up with as it has only been 3 years in the making.

  23. I have heard some people around town try to justify what clearly is breaking the law, or bending the law to make their ideas (very gray areas and some outright LIES) “fit” the law. Our JUSTICE SYSTEM in the United States does NOT work this way. We have LAWS and they are NOT meant to be broke or bent to fit what an individual believes will or may “work” for them. I believe this is where a city can get into cronyism, corruption, conflicts of interest, and ALL the many factions that comes along with BENDING laws, etc. ……

    I think we all KNOW that when we see it. I expect the town I live in to go by the rule of LAW and be HONEST, FAIR, and OPEN and TRANSPARENT in its dealings with EVERYBODY. THAT is why we have LAWS.

    Our codes for the city need now to be up to date, and we need a CODE OF ETHICS. It is quite simple…….People are either ETHICAL or UNETHICAL….we ALL also learned THAT a long time ago, and those that break or bend the law need to be brought to JUSTICE. People like this are not the first, and I’m sure won’t be the last but we need to ALWAYS aspire to the higher ground, not the lower ground.

  24. Thanks for the information Don. A Code of Ethics is ineffective without related enforcement. I believe the same is true of the General Code of Conduct in the City of Edmonds’ Personnel Policies. I believe an independent person or board should be established to investigate these issues and report their findings to the citizens. If violations have occurred, I believe the Mayor should be ultimately responsible for holding the responsible party accountable for their actions. There probably should be solid guidelines for the related punishment established before the violation of City rules has taken place.

    It will be interesting to watch the developments in Seattle related to Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes violation of Seattle’s policies. The City of Seattle is a “drug-free workplace” under federal law, and Seattle’s personnel rules reflect this. Holmes has finally admitted that he violated the City’s rules but as of yet, I don’t think the Mayor of Seattle or anyone else has taken steps to hold Holmes accountable for his violation.

    This is one reason that I feel an independent officer or board needs to be established in cities, along with procedures for citizens to request enforcement of ethics and codes of conduct.

    Monroe states it very well, as follows:

    The public has a right to expect that each and every public official and employee live up to the highest ethical standards in the performance of their duties. Citizens have the right to courtesy, impartiality, fairness and equality under the law.

    Seattle City Attorney Holmes appears to believe that when it comes to his violation, all he has to do is apologize, make a charitable contribution and he is good to go. I would hope the Mayor of Seattle would have taken prompt action which would have built trust in Seattle that there is not a double standard.

    The more I think about it, the more important an independent officer or board seems.

    I also am starting to think that the citizens would be much better served if an Ethics Officer attended all Executive Sessions.

  25. Solid points Tere. Per the City’s Code, the Mayor shall see that all laws and ordinances are faithfully enforced and that law and order is maintained in the City. Related to bending or breaking laws . . . I don’t see anything in the Code that suggests it is okay to factor the City’s own possible liability exposure into its decisions. I think it is pretty plain and simple – the City’s laws and ordinances are to be faithfully enforced.

    This is a critical foundation of Trust in government.

  26. Just this morning I saw 2 cats not only crossing the street halfway between the corners but they were not accompanied by their owner, nor did they have leashes. Should we expect the city to put a plan into place along with the needed resources to enforce this law?

  27. An independent board or commission to deal with ethical questions is crucial to an ethics policy. I don’t believe that the Council discussion of such issues in Executive Session is an allowable use of the Executive Session.
    I also don’t think having an Ethics officer in all Executive Sessions is a good idea. The Council has the availability of Executive Session as proscribed by the Law, and as such should be able to use it without oversight from within those sessions.
    Ethics violations, if any, can be dealt with by an independent Board or Commision. Trying to anticipate “punishments” for violations would be burdensome and largely un-needed. Violations of the law would be refered to the proper authorizes depending on the issue.
    An Ethics Board could investigate complaints, determine the validity of the complaints, and work with the individuals involved to a proper resolution.

    I also know an Edmonds kitty who enjoys her walks on her leash, is always supervised and would never jay walk. (Seriously!). A law abiding cat!

  28. You make very good points D.

    My Executive Session thoughts relate to Council’s challenge determining whether or not they are being told true and complete information behind closed doors. This is very challenging in open Council session, and even more difficult in Executive Session where there is no public overview of what is being represented. I fear Council is more vulnerable behind closed Executive Session doors.

    I think Executive Sessions are valuable at times and make sense in theory, but I fear they can also contribute to poor governance, Executive Sessions seem to be held more frequently now than in the past.

  29. Closed sessions except for certain circumstances make for a government that is not transparent……I believe the public should demand that its government is more transparent. …….Yes, I believe it is poor governance and they ARE more frequent now. This makes for the public NOT to TRUST our government

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