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Following Recent Ethics Questions, City Council Votes To Raise Standards

Elisa Chan
Ryan Loyd
TPR News

New ethics standards are on their way to San Antonio City Hall as the city council voted to add changes to the ethics code after several recent incidents cast a shadow of doubt on city leaders.

The most recent incident was over the vote for a new District 9 library, which was located next to Councilwoman Elisa Chan’s North Side business.

At the time, city staffers working on the project knew the library and Chan’s business, Unitech, were bordering each other, but said nothing to the city council on the matter.

At an April B session briefing to the city council about ethics code adjustments, District 8 Councilman Reed Williams said he believes rules don’t keep people ethical.

In the last four years, he said he didn’t see anything that truly was unethical, but admitted there were events that had the appearance of being that way.

City Attorney Michael Bernard, who has been at the forefront of the changes, told the city council this week that several changes had been made from the previous recommendations.

One of them is that the new compliance auditor would answer to the Ethics Review Board, and not the city manager.

"The direction that we got from governance, as well as the B session, is to make the compliance auditor as independent as we possibly could," Bernard said.

The auditor would be in charge of digging into potential conflicts with city contracts, council member campaign reports and financial disclosures.

Currently, Bernard serves as a compliance officer and attorney for the city. He said the new rules would separate those roles.

Council members added their own recommendations that made them feel comfortable with the changes.

One of them, which was suggested by Williams, includes an ethics training program. Mayor Julián Castro said he believes the rules do help people do the right thing.

The changes won't take effect until the new budget year, in October, because of staff and training additions.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.