We must establish best practices in municipal ethics for our city government to stop ethical misconduct, and to preserve public trust in the integrity of our government.
Currently, Bethlehem does not have an ethics ordinance, only a simple resolution that does not have the force of law. For example, a council member is free to vote on a matter that greatly benefits a major campaign donor.
Key Elements of Our Ordinance – Best Practices
Guidance – regular, mandated training and timely professional advice for public officials and employees to help them recognize, avoid or handle conflicts of interest responsibly.
Conflict of Interest Code – clear and comprehensive provisions that prohibit the use of one’s position to do anything that may directly or indirectly financially or personally benefit one’s self, family or business associates. The code also governs gifts, revolving door, nepotism, misuse of government property, etc.
Recusal & Campaign Contribution Limits – recognizing the potential for campaign contributions to influence public officials and to create the appearance of impropriety, the ordinance requires officials to abstain from deliberating and voting on a matter that would benefit a donor. The ordinance also limits campaign contributions.
Disclosure – mandated disclosure of financial interests, business and personal relationships, campaign contributions and other transactions that could result in conflicts of interest aid transparency and accountability. These forms are filed electronically and made available online for the public review.
Independent Administration by a Board of Ethics – members are nominated by non-partisan community organizations and therefore independent of government officials and with sole authority to administer the ethics program. This is essential to assure the public that proper oversight is taking place.
Enforcement – ethical violations are handled through administrative proceedings that are confidential and provide protections from malicious complaints, as well as protections for whistle blowers. The board of ethics has the power to investigate, make a determination, and assign penalties, which are administrative and aimed at educating as much as punishing.
To read the complete City of Bethlehem Public Official and City Employee Ethics Act, click here.