STRICTER ETHICS ORDINANCE PROPOSED BY MAYOR

Would require elected officials’ disclosure of communications about permit and license applications, citations, sanctions, personnel matters

SOMERVILLE – Strengthening the City of Somerville’s commitment to open government and transparency, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone has filed a proposed expansion of the City’s ethics ordinance that would require elected officials to file disclosures of their communications with any person or representative seeking a permit or license from the City in connection with the permit or license.

The amendment to the City’s ethics ordinance, titled “Standards of Conduct for City Employees Relative to Improper Influence,” would also require the Board of Aldermen and School Committee to file disclosures of communications with City employees outside of public meetings that are about pending or reasonably anticipated permit or license applications; pending or reasonably anticipated citations, sanctions or legal violations; and personnel matters including hirings, promotions and disciplinary matters. All required disclosures would be due within three business days of the communication.

The expanded ordinance also prohibits communications between elected officials and members of a City Board or Commission regarding the substance of a permit or license’s approval, denial, modification or termination unless in a public hearing or meeting, except as allowed by the City Charter or state law. Members of the Board of Aldermen and School Committee would also be prohibited from directing non-elected City employees with respect to their official responsibilities, except as otherwise allowed by City Charter or state law.

In expanding the rigor of the City’s ethics ordinance to require these disclosures, members of the public would know that City employees and board and commission members are able to carry out their duties unfettered by political influence.

“We document everything that passes through City Hall. Whether a request about parking tickets or permit applications, everything is available to the public. We must make that the law for every elected official,” said Mayor Curtatone. “We will ensure accountability and equal access to city government. The public should have confidence that everyone receives equal treatment by the City—not based on who they know, but on the merits of their request or application. We are already a model for the Commonwealth in myriad areas. We will be a model for the Commonwealth in openness and transparency too.”

Disclosures would be filed by members of the Board of Aldermen and School Committee on a standard form to the City Clerk; the Mayor’s disclosures would be retained in the Mayor’s Office. The disclosures would include a description of the subject matter of the communication, a summary, and the medium, time and date of the communication.

The tougher ethics requirements proposal, first announced in Mayor Curtatone’s January 2014 inaugural address and submitted to the Board of Aldermen today, follows Mayor Curtatone’s proposal in May 2013 to set stricter standards on campaign contributions to elected officials from anyone who does business with the City.