I am informed that next week the Wylie City Council Agenda will hold a little something something special. After years of various citizens requesting it, a code of ethics will finally come to a vote. We can thank Councilwoman Diane Culver for shining the spotlight on this issue and following through on her campaign platform just as her council light dims for the last time.
Some people might not know what brought all of this about, especially if they have not been reading my blog for the last 3 years so I will give as brief a synopsis as I can.
Back in the day of Mayor Mondy whom I truly like and respect, he made a rather large blunder. Mondy did a little favor for his friend Mayor Pro Tem Red Byboth by writing a letter on City of Wylie letterhead, asking for leniency in the sentencing phase of a convicted child sex offender. According to my friend the Red-man, this offender was his employee at the moving company Byboth owns and he was hoping to give the guy a break because of the guy's allegations that he did not do what he was accused of (flashing a busload of students or some such stupidity). Suffice to say, the boner idea of using City of Wylie letterhead opened up the city for litigation should the kiddydiddler diddle kiddies again.
Of course this was pretty much swept under the rug by the Wylie News, the local newspaper that rarely reports anything controversial. The news of this however was all over the Wylie View, a little bulletin board playground of what I call, some of Wylie's most immature citizens who post utter nonsense under pseudonyms. But I digress.
Back in the day, then citizen Diane Culver was quite verbal about the issue on the Wylie View and asked for a code of conduct for council, but that notion was swept under the carpet by an apathetic and self-centered group of council members.
A couple of years later I showed up at a meeting on home-based businesses and introduced myself as a Wylie Tea Party member, and after the meeting an appointed board member verbally accosted me right outside the doors to the council chamber. I complained to our Mayor but felt it was not given any priority so I complained to the whole council. A bit of childishness went on with council because they had never had to deal with a citizen activist before. They were honestly stymied as to how to proceed so they sweep it under the carpet rather than acknowledge my complaint. It became crystal clear to me that our council felt they were sitting on seven golden thrones and could do what they pleased with no recourse whatsoever. This simply could not stand.
At that time I was put in touch with Diane Culver and found I had a comrade who wished to get a code of conduct brought to council. She felt moved to run for council and she took the seat away from one of the original good old boys former Councilman Carter Porter who had practically made sitting on council or boards a career. Many people spoke at subsequent council meetings in favor of a code of conduct but nothing was done, rather people like former Councilman Rick White essentially said he was above reproach and didn't need it. The arrogance of a few of our council members was jaw-dropping.
After Culver got on council, the woman who verbally accosted me was up for seat renewal and council had the opportunity to remove her for her bad behavior. Rumor had it she had bouts of obnoxious behavior more than just with me but council members like Kathy Spillyards and Rick White gave me a f\u look and glared at me in council chambers as they voted to keep her on, despite the recommendation by the boards and commissions panel to remove her. The way they handled it was so childish and vicious that I decided I had just about all I was going to take. That night history was made as I started this blog. My belief was that if citizens had no recourse and council refused to do what is morally and ethically right, then there had to be an outlet to let them know exactly what we think about it all. And boy do they know.
I can say without a doubt that our city council has known exactly what I thought of that issue and many others since I started writing this blog. Sometimes I've hurt their feelings. Sometimes they took things personally that were not meant personal because my twisted humor tippie toed across an appropriate line. Yet at the end of the day, all I ever wanted was what was best for all citizens, not just what was best for me.
During her term, Culver was able to bring the code of conduct up for some work sessions and worked closely with Mayor Hogue nailing down the details but then it was pushed aside for the last year and a half. I discovered that the code of ethics was about to come to a vote next week, Councilwoman Culver suggested that I should, "put my money where my mouth is" and apply for a position to the new board of citizens that it would create should it pass. On one hand I see her point but on the other hand it was never my intent to be one who sat on the jury, so to speak. It would seem as though I pushed so hard for a code of ethics just so I can sit on it. Again, never my intent.
I feel vehemently that I should be the last person to apply for that board and I did not have to reflect upon this for very long. Additionally, it did not take me long to conclude that I should not stack the cards in the conservative favor either by pushing my political friends or tea party friends to apply, nor do I wish to see council members and other groups like the association WASA, formed to push for money to fund the retirement community and their center, stack such a board in their favor either. The idea of having this board is so that everyday average citizens have an objective third party to complain to that is not being swayed by pending elections or pals on other powerful boards such as the Wylie Economic Development Board.
In an ideal world I would love to see several nobodies in the city who have never been involved such as a teacher, a home-maker, a retiree, and a couple other professionals serve the city in this capacity. And though this board does not provide the ability to remove elected officials, it will be tasked with getting to the bottom of a problem and then making a recommendation. To say that this new code would be useless because it does not provide for the removal of elected officials is a bit of a misnomer. The boardy will be able to recommend additional training or censuring, and do not underestimate the power of censuring. It is a very public statement that helps the average Joe Citizen understand that an elected official should probably receive a bit of extra scrutiny at election time should they choose not to resign from their position for wrong doing.
After being so overtly verbal about the need of a code of ethics, I should be happy that we are on the cusp of a vote for it, yet I cannot help but be a tad disappointed. It took two public mishaps for our council to decide to do the right thing. Had it not been for the Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest activities of our Councilman Nathan Scott and his arrests for everything from speeding all the way to striking his wife, and also the personal foibles of Councilman Bennie Jones' employment woes, we would be no closer to a code of ethics.
Some examples of why a code is necessary are strong reasons for a code to be passed. For all these years our council has relied on the city charter and the state's ethics requirements as their guide, yet these guides did nothing to stop one particular former council member who clearly has a problem with his liquor. This individual was spotted falling down drunk at numerous council events over his tenure, all while serving as a representative of Wylie. Behavior like that is totally unacceptable and could have been dealt with swiftly had a code been in place.
So too the sex offender letter of shame could have been dealt with. Former Councilman Merrill Young could have been censured for purchasing a degree at a degree mill and passing himself off as a degreed teacher, or more accurately a total fraud to the community. It could have dealt with the rather irresponsible Councilman Nathan Scott and his plethora of tickets, and it could have dealt with a woman who verbally accosted me because of my belief system.
From the examples I've given above, we can no longer assume that our elected and appointed officials understand the basic fundamentals of right and wrong. Clearly. I only wish our council had done the right thing all along, but they made their choice and have had to live with a council member or two they would have like to deal with but were unable to as their punishment. Because of this I hope the code of ethics passes, especially because of how embarrassing it would look for our council not to pass such a thing and make an incredibly arrogant statement to citizens that they believe they are too perfect for such a guidebook.
Here's to a second chance to do the right thing.