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Commission code of conduct target of workshop

By Grace Lovins

The Birmingham City Commission on Monday, April 24, decided to schedule for mid-summer another workshop meeting to discuss the development of a commissioner code of conduct.

Commissioners last saw the proposed code of conduct on March 13, when the city manager and city attorney included the draft in the meeting packet. Prior to this meeting, city attorney Mary Kucharek was asked to go through the document and identify areas that were duplicative. The commission had 14 days after from March 13 to review Kucharek’s findings and provide any comments on any changes they want to see.

These comments were included in the city manager’s report on the code of conduct in the April 24 meeting packet. Commissioners Pierre Boutros and Katie Schafer noted they had no comments or desired changes, while the other five commissioners submitted a list of suggestions or a marked up copy of the draft.

During the commissioner comments portion of Monday night’s meeting, commissioner Brad Host gave a detailed explanation of what he sees wrong with the document. He said the drafted code, while well meaning, is seriously flawed and could have unintended consequences.

“I believe the revised code we’ve been asked to review has been drafted, intentionally or unintentionally, in an authoritarian manner, setting traps for the people turning to it in good faith for guidance, failing to encourage the clarity, efficiency and camaraderie it should seek to achieve,” Host said.

“I respectfully ask that we take a hard second look at this code, not as a rejection for our need for a code of conduct, but as affirmation of our desire to work in harmony, connect with our constituents without fear, and express our ideas openly and freely,” he continued.

City manager Markus reiterated that this is something the commission has to decide on and recommended setting another workshop session to talk it over and figure out exactly what the group wants, but the most important thing is that decide on it collectively.

“I would remind you that most if not all of that came from other jurisdictions codes of conduct and, in fact, I would say that that’s the type of thing that typically appears in a code of conduct. Having said that, at the end of the day, it’s this commission’s decision. My recommendation is you sit down in a work session and exchange your views, cut it up, get agreement as to what you want in that code of conduct, move it up to the agenda and vote on it. You don’t need [Kucharek] and me anymore,” Markus said.

Commissioners agreed to move the item to a workshop session for the next possible date. The review of the code and setting up a workshop session were not items that required formal action or a vote from the commission.


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