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Another Reason to Consider an Ann Arbor City Ethics Code

The Ann Arbor City Council approved the appointment of the city's transportation program manager to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's (AATA) governing board on December 19th. Two Council members, Stephen Kunselman (D-3rd Ward) and Jane Lumm (I-2nd Ward), voted against the appointment. In an AnnArbor.com article outlining Council's discussion of the matter, Kunselman suggested, "We now have a city staff person who is in the position of voting on hiring and firing the director of the AATA," then adding further, "Is he a political appointee, or is he a city staffperson when I [as a City Council representative] go to communicate with him?"  

We think this is an excellent question. Over the past month, we have been preparing to do a series of podcasts on municipal ethics. Our primary source reading has come from Robert Weschler, the Director of Research for City Ethics.org. He kindly sent us a book draft he has been writing called Local Government Ethics. We believe A2Ethics.org listeners might want to become familiar with Weschler's very thoughtful commentary on his blog for CityEthics.org.

Based on a first reading of Weschler's primer, two immediate questions come to mind:

1. Is the appointment an example of holding two offices that are incompatible?  And if this is so, is that why the potential for conflicts of interest, to which Councilman Kunselman alludes, is higher? 

2. Will the appointment require multiple recusals, in which case, the expertise of the appointee, given as one of the principal reasons for the appointment in the first place, cannot be used? If this is so, it would seem as if the City Council has approved a largely absentee or nonvoting member of the AATA. 

What Would Weschler Think? (WWWT?)  And...What Do You Think?