It appears that Parsons City Manager Fred Gress and Commissioner Greg York are pushing a code of conduct for our City Commissioners. This code seems to be aimed at new commissioner Frankie Barnett, since he is to our city what “Columbo” was to detective shows.
True or not, the appearance (to the public) is that Gress basically wants control over who Frank can speak with, and what the topics/questions are. Since the other commissioners almost always vote in favor of whatever the City Manager proposes, and Mr. Barnett is often the only dissenting vote, it only stands to reason that certain portions of this proposal are intended to affect Barnett and his remarks regarding the issues at hand.
Love or hate Frankie, I believe there are NO inappropriate questions, as long as they pertain to city works and finances. We elected Frank to shine some light into the process so that we see where our tax dollars are going.
Here’s a sample that reads much differently than Fred and his allies propose. This sample certainly does not need a manager or mayor to filter questions to city staff. http://www.battlecreekmi.gov/City_Government/Mayor_and_Commission/Code_of_Ethics.htm
I’m assuming you haven’t seen a copy of this proposal, so I have attached this below. There are other copies already around town, so some of you may have seen this.
I believe section 6 of the proposed rules is completely unacceptable. It basically says asking questions is inappropriate, unless Fred Gress says it’s appropriate.
From section 12, who will it be that makes the judgement call on what comments are “belligerent, personal, impertinent, slanderous, threatening, abusive or disparaging? Will Mr. Gress or Mr. York be making these decisions?
It is a well-known fact here in Parsons that Mr. Barnett has been attending public meetings and has often irritated Mr. Gress and other commissioners by simply asking that they enforce City regulations with a fair and even hand for all, while pointing out cases where inconsistencies exist. He has admittedly been an outspoken critic of the current City Manager and the city’s management in general. This past history practically insures that Frank Barnett has prejudice against him when someone claims he is making disparaging remarks.
We elected Frank to ask questions and get information. Especially when taxpayers feel inappropriate actions or spending is being done. In essence, he was elected to be an outspoken critic. Not liking Frankie’s “tone and tenor” at a meeting is an emotional reaction, and not a good reason to create this over-reaching code of conduct.
If Frank speaks the truth, as he sees it, he will be in danger of being labeled belligerent and then being admonished publicly. Is that what this document is leading to, a public spanking for constantly asking tough questions?
Who would be a fair and impartial judge of what a disparaging (section 12) or “personal remark” is? Are we leaving it up to Gress and York to decide what’s appropriate and what’s not?……well THAT’S NOT APPROPRIATE!
Much of the document below is “standard boiler-plate” stuff and just common sense. I have no objections to those ordinary and customary requirements of code, they are quite acceptable and possibly should be accepted.
My questions are these: why wasn’t some of this boilerplate already in place years ago? If this was un-needed before, what has suddenly changed that we need to adopt these rules and give the City Manager these new controls and powers?
Some of this common sense stuff was needed in the past, especially for conflicts of interest when giving JOBS Inc. $24,000 that was ultimately wasted. The City Manager and a former City Commissioner (the Commissioner has since been voted out) who belong to that private group had a glaring conflict of interest then (see section 2). What has changed?
The bottom line is this; The document and the timing of it’s proposal just don’t pass the “smell test”. Does anyone else get that feeling? If so, or not….feel free to comment!