DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Today, the Dallas City Council unanimously approved the ethics reform package that was initially proposed by Mayor Eric Johnson several months ago.
The reforms were originally proposed in late September. Johnson declared the package to be a “top priority” of the City Council and asked them to pass it before the end of the year.READ MORE: Dallas Police Searching For 3 Juvenile Males Suspected Of Violently Abusing A Cat
City Councilmember Paula Blackmon worked with the mayor, Ad Hoc Committee on General Investigating and Ethics Committee Chair Cara Mendelsohn, city councilmembers, and the city attorney’s office to gather input and feedback on the proposals.
Johnson calls the overhaul of the ethics code “historic” and “monumental.” It expands the Ethics Advisory Commission to 15 members, tightens and clarifies policies related to recusals, gifts, and lobbying, streamlines the code of ethics, and creates the city’s first-ever Inspector General Division.
The Inspector General will be hired by the city attorney and is tasked with monitoring city officials’ compliance with the ethics code. They will initiate and conduct investigations, follow up on complaints, and prosecute cases before a five-member panel of the Ethics Advisory Commission. They will also have the authority to issue advisory opinions at the request of city officials.
The Division will also include a chief integrity officer tasked with developing a mandatory ethics training program. The reforms will reallocate and consolidate ethics and compliance positions in other departments under the new Division.READ MORE: At Resentencing Hearing ‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic Gets One Less Year, Now Must Serve 21 Years In Prison
Up to $197,558 in funding has been allocated for the office.
“This was perhaps the most important vote we have taken during my tenure as mayor,” said Mayor Johnson. “Ethical behavior is the foundation of everything else we do at City Hall. We cannot be a great city without a strong and clear ethics code and without a culture of ethical excellence at City Hall. By creating an Inspector General Division, creating clearer boundaries, and instilling a culture of ethics, we are sending an unmistakable message to the people of Dallas that their best interests are our only interests.”
Ethics reform was a key part of Johnson’s campaign, and he vowed in his 2019 inauguration speech to reform the code of ethics and more rigorously enforce it at Dallas City Hall. At the time, a federal corruption investigation involving multiple city government officials had resulted in numerous indictments and convictions.
Councilmember Blackmon, along with additional amendments, proposed a motion to institute a biannual review of the ordinance and a requirement that six of the 15 Ethics Advisory Commission members have special qualifications.
“This is an important step in rebuilding trust in our local government and making our ethics code accessible and transparent to the public,” said Councilmember Blackmon.MORE NEWS: Plano Police Arrest Adrien Javon Grant, 29, Accused Of Shooting Jesaias Hiram Nieves
Dallas councilmember Cara Mendelsohn also commented, saying, “Dallas residents deserve a city government with the highest ethical standards and conduct by staff, elected officials, and partner organizations. It’s a day to celebrate a big step forward for Dallas!”