Opinion

Andeen: Paradise Valley leadership, ethics, code of conduct

Posted 2/8/21

Our town’s elected mayor and councilmembers need to exhibit leadership, ethics, and honor our town’s Code of Conduct. I am one of your Town Council members committed to serving residents …

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Opinion

Andeen: Paradise Valley leadership, ethics, code of conduct

Posted

Our town’s elected mayor and councilmembers need to exhibit leadership, ethics, and honor our town’s Code of Conduct. I am one of your Town Council members committed to serving residents and preserving Paradise Valley.

I am a native of Paradise Valley and third generation resident. As you can probably imagine, I care deeply about our town.

For background, I have an MBA with a background in accounting and finance and during my professional career in banking and finance, I have been fortunate to experience lots of good leadership, but also have observed lapses in effective leadership. I have also observed business leaders who exhibit good core values and who strive to comply with their organization’s code of conduct.

At the Nov. 5, 2020 council meeting, I supported a proposed agenda item on a discussion of ethics, integrity, and transparency. It only needed one more vote of support to make it to the agenda. I seconded Councilmember Julie Pace’s motion to add it as an agenda item, but to my surprise, no other councilmembers would agree to support the item.

Thus, the proposed agenda item failed, and no discussion on this item made it to the agenda. In my opinion, we should be having this conversation on an annual basis. We do not.

From my time on council, I have observed some issues that I find concerning and I will continue to support the discussion of our town’s Code of Conduct.

Thankfully, our town manager has introduced this topic as an agenda item for late spring after an embarrassing council meeting on Jan. 21. As such, I will continue to work hard to focus on solutions, call out game-playing, and ensure high ethics and leadership standards.

Our residents deserve and expect this.

I am including a list of the following concerns I have observed:

  1. Public records requests and town responses involving a council member who is allegedly creating the appearance of impropriety to steer people with town business either towards or away from particular vendors or service providers;
  2. Information that indicated that a public relations firm that has or did represent three council members in political campaigns had been hired to provide services to the town;
  3. One councilmember’s personal lawyer and close friend had been hired to provide services to the town; and
  4. There are questions that the specific attorney’s law firm represented a high profile development project that was before the town during the same time period.

I do not believe that councilmembers should be engaging in the appearance of impropriety or steering people with town business either towards or away from particular vendors or service providers.

Our town ethics code specifically addresses these alleged comments and actions.

Item 4 of our Ethics Code states councilmembers shall avoid the “impression of influence.” And, the Code further provides that “we shall conduct our official and personal affairs in such a manner as to give a clear impression that we cannot be improperly influenced in the performance of our official duties.”

Item 6 of the Ethics Code provides that councilmembers shall avoid creating the appearance of impropriety or engage in an impropriety of which is otherwise unbefitting of a public official. Item 6 applies to the hiring of a public relations firm that has worked in the political campaigns of three council members. And, this item as well as Item 7 address hiring a councilmember’s personal lawyer without full disclosure.

Item No. 7 specifically states that personal relationships shall be disclosed in any instance where there could be the appearance of a conflict of interest or is actually a conflict of interest.

Furthermore, I recently attended a joint council/Planning Commission meeting on Jan. 21 regarding a serious town issue on building pad heights that our residents had brought to our attention in 2019. This meeting was told to me that it would be a way to bring both bodies together and work towards solutions, instead of prolonging the process. It was not.

Instead, it was a meeting, embarrassing to all, after the mayor and three councilmembers decided to hijack the meeting and attack Councilmember Julie Pace for helping residents with the issue.

Instead, the mayor and other three councilmembers should have been working on solutions for our residents.

Even though I was not involved in the coordinated attack and completely surprised of it, I have and continue to apologize to many on staff, the Planning Commission, and residents. I have publicly asked the mayor to apologize to our residents, volunteers, and staff for this as he sets the agenda and had changed the order of discussion shortly before the meeting. He has refused to apologize.

I look forward to our discussion in March regarding the topic of ethics, integrity and transparency. Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr, “it is always the right time to do the right thing.” Leadership requires this approach.

Editor’s Note: Ellen Andeen is a Paradise Valley Town Councilmember.

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