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Revising the city ethics code

I don’t know enough about the specifics of this to draw any firm conclusions, but it sounds reasonable enough from the description.

The city is poised to significantly tighten its ethics rules, closing loopholes that allow lobbyists to avoid registration and criminalizing some violations of a stricter code of conduct for city officials.

“It’s a very, very thorough review,” said City Councilman Mike Sullivan, whom Mayor Annise Parker credited for spearheading the changes.

Sullivan said he has felt the need to strengthen the city’s ethics rules ever since he has been on City Council.

On numerous occasions, lawyers representing companies or individuals have come to him to discuss city policy, he said. Rarely were they registered as lobbyists for the entities they represented, often saying they were at City Hall on behalf of a legal client, Sullivan said.

“That’s disingenuous to me, and that really disturbed me,” he said. “I’m about openness and transparency, and that really didn’t sit well with me, or the public.”

Under a proposal City Council is expected to vote on next week, that loophole, along with a host of others, would be closed. Now, unless a lawyer is performing services that cannot be done by anyone else, such as representing a client in a legal proceeding, the individual must register as a lobbyist.

Nice to see at least a temporary thaw in the Parker/Sullivan relationship. The real question with these things is the consequences for violating them. How likely are you to get caught, and what happens when you do? City Attorney David Feldman says violators will be prosecuted for misdemeanors under this ordinance. If so, then it ought to have a positive effect. We’ll see.

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