Kalispell Adopts Ethics Policy

By Beacon Staff

The Kalispell City Council reinforced its vow to uphold ethical standards for elected officials by implementing a formal policy that complements the state’s existing procedural requirements.

The council on Monday voted 7-0 to approve a resolution that implements the “Policies and Procedures for the Kalispell City Council” as a guiding document and orientation manual that lays out the duties and expectations of taking public office. The 14-page manual includes sections on legal and ethical standards, codes of conduct and directives for addressing conflicts of interest and the “appearance of impropriety,” or improper actions.

“The residents and businesses of the City of Kalispell are entitled to have fair, ethical and accountable local government,” the document states in its preamble.

The policy requires public officials to comply with “both the letter and the spirit of the laws and policies affecting operations of government.” Councilors must be “independent, impartial and fair in their judgment and actions,” the policy states, and they must “use their public office for the public good, not for personal gain.” They are also required to conduct deliberations with respect and civility in a transparent manner, unless legal confidentiality is required.

The new formal document continues Kalispell’s previous practice of following state code, which is enforced by the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices.

“What this does is put together a packet of material that we go over at least once a year with council,” Kalispell City Attorney Charles Harball said.

Councilors hashed out a policy after almost a year’s worth of wrangling, particularly over disclosure measures.
Randy Kenyon, who originally spurred city staff to craft a new ethics policy last year, sought more transparency of councilor’s backgrounds, such as employment and property ownership within city limits.

Kenyon proposed an amendment on Monday that would have required councilors to disclose what property they own in the city. Councilor Tim Kluesner called the addition unnecessary because that information is currently available on the Flathead County’s website and at the county courthouse. Other councilors pointed out that someone could simply transfer property to another person’s name.

Wayne Saverud supported the amendment but it failed by a vote of 5-2.

Councilors Phil Guiffrida and Kari Gabriel were absent for Monday’s meeting.

As it stands, the policy manual requires members of the council to file a statement listing their current employment and which boards they serve on.

Councilors are not allowed to disclose confidential information related to city operations and should refrain from discussing municipal matters amongst each other outside of public meetings.

The policy states, “For the public to have faith and confidence that government authority will be implemented in an even-handed and ethical manner, public officials may need to step aside even though no technical conflict exists.”

Read the entire ethics policy here.

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