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Code of conduct wanted by residents, leaders

By Kevin Elliott

Several Birmingham City Commissioners and residents on Monday, March 14, applauded efforts of city staff to move forward with the creation of a code of conduct for elected and appointed officials.

Several of the individuals who spoke referred to what they categorized as uncivil communications during the last election cycle, as well as the conduct of other commissioners following that election.

“It’s time to stop. I’m sick and tired of it. I’m sick and tired of being your punch bag. Well, I will punch back if I have to,” commissioner Andrew Haig told fellow commissioner Clinton Baller and mayor Therese Longe.

Haig took issue with the two sitting commissioners working together during the election, claiming that Longe filed Baller’s campaign finance report without declaring so publicly.

“Quite frankly, I wouldn’t trust either of you to tell me the time of day if all three of us looked at the same clock together,” Haig said.

Commissioner Brad Host said it’s imperative the city enact a code of conduct, based on the last election cycle and what he categorized as “mud slinging.”

“We should all have a code of ethics or code of conduct, whether you’re a citizen, a commissioner or both,” Host said. “Conflicts of interest need to be spelled out better, and I applaud (Birmingham City Attorney) Mary (Kucharek) for attempting to do that. I hope it continues. It’s discouraging we cannot debate. It tends to lead to bullying and dismissiveness on issues that are very important to our citizens.”

The creation of a code of conduct was discussed during a February 14 workshop with commissioners. The point of the workshop was to ensure respectful and civil communication, public engagement between elected and appointed officials with members of the public. City manager Tom Markus said staff researched the issue and is working on developing a formal policy to present to the commission.

Commissioner Elaine McLain recommended fellow commissioners read the book “Conversations Worth Having,” by Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres, which focuses on “appreciative inquiry” to fuel productive and meaningful engagement.


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