Council approves ethics ordinance
Bethlehem City Council Sept. 5 approved an ethics ordinance that limits gifts to officials and employees in the city government. City employees, to include elected officials, will be subject to penalty if they accept gifts valued more than a token or nominal value.
Some exceptions include such things as allowing city employees to accept gifts with a clear market value if the employee pays for it. City employees can snack at events where hosts provide refreshments such as cookies, as long as the food “may not be reasonably interpreted as trying to influence the city employee to give more favorable treatment to the donor…”
Councilwoman Olga Negrón, who was absent for a temporary health reason, said in an interview that she didn’t support the bill, but acknowledged there were not enough votes to defeat it.
One of her objections was that the new ordinance gives the city comptroller too much power. “The Comptroller should not have that power [to enforce the law] she said.”
At the first reading of the ordinance Aug. 15, the vote had been 5 to 1 for the bill with Negrón casting the single voting “nay” and with Councilman Shawn Martell absent.
Other voices during the public comment phase of the meeting expressed displeasure with the new law before the vote.
Barbara Diamond, a Bethlehem resident, wanted the council to pass a law that allows “zero” gifts. “Why not take gifts out of the equation?”
Diamond called the enforcement of the ordinance “… a nebulous process…no deterrent at all.”
Dana Grubb, also a Bethlehem resident objected, calling the ordinance “an insult to the citizens.” “Do the right thing,” he urged. “Ban all gifts.”
“There is no logical reason to give a gift,” said Stephen Analics, a Bethlehem resident.