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Monday, December 05, 2005 | Back in September, then mayoral candidate Jerry Sanders made the first bombastic promise of his campaign: If elected, Sanders was going to demand letters of resignation from 300 “high-level” city employees.

He said he would then decide whom to keep.

Well, he was elected mayor, and today he takes his office.

We’ll be patient about seeing the outcome of that promise, but we couldn’t help but wonder what a letter of resignation like that would look like. And because Sanders’ chief aide – retired Admiral Ronne Froman – has actually been the city manager for now a week, we wondered if any resignation letters have started to trickle in.

If she’s the city employees’ boss now and Sanders is her boss, then it stands to reason that one of his first priorities in office – to squeeze a resignation letter out of the City Hall 300 – can now be easily attained.

So I’m now doing a public records request for all such letters and copies of them. Not because I necessarily want to see people resign, but because I really want to see the letters.

I’m just dying to see what a letter like that looks like. After all, I assume the vast majority of these people don’t want to resign. So what do they write?

Mayor Jerry Sanders

Re: Your Request for 300 Resignations of High-Level Managers

Hon. Mayor Sanders:

I resign. Please keep me on the job, of course. But I resign. Effective, umm, I don’t know when – because I don’t want to leave. Here’s my resignation, however.

Sincerely,

A high-level city employee

That’s why I do hereby officially request copies of all such letters along with any correspondence Sanders may have sent in response. I’ll send in a “real” public records request today, too. So, by law, his office has 10 days to get back to me.

Stay tuned.

This thought came up because even though Mayor-elect Sanders becomes the official mayor today, it’s still not quite clear who is going to be carrying out his many campaign promises.

We got an inkling – and a little excited – the other day when he sent out a press release announcing that he would unveil at least some of the people who would head the departments under his control.

But then he only announced two names: one, Kris Michell, who will have a sort of uber-liaison role in the office. The other, Jo Anne SawyerKnoll, who’s $150,000-year job will be to do a “bottom-up” review of ethics in City Hall and produce an annual “ethics audit.”

Wow, a new ethics bureaucrat.

The list of our costly ethics infrastructure is growing: The city attorney’s “public integrity unit,” the existing Ethics Commission, the (now resigning?) high-level city employee in the human resources department – Danell Scarborough – who has been teaching ethics standards on a regular basis, and the new Sanders ethics czar.

It’s not inconceivable that someday soon you could stop an employee hustling out of City Hall and ask them what they do for the city and get this as a reply:

“Ethics.”

It’d seem like C Street had become a center of philosophical study or something.

We gently tried to bait City Attorney Mike Aguirre into raging about how Sanders was wasting money on this new ethics orgy, but Aguirre has got nothing but praise for the new mayor these days. And for this issue, there was no exception.

So he left it to us.

It seems that of all the most worrisome problems in the city – like its financial crisis, for instance – teaching people about ethics and hiring an expensive lawyer to do it is a bit strange.

How do you teach someone to be a good person? To do things ethically?

Sure, you can teach them about the law and the rules, but between the city attorney and the ethics commission, can’t we handle that? The ethics commission already regularly certifies city officials in their responsibilities to the various codes of the city.

And doesn’t it seem odd that of all the problems in the city – like its financial crisis, for instance – Mayor Sanders chose to hire an ethics czar before he hired a chief financial officer?

The ethics czar is a new position in the mayor’s office, costing $150,000 a year, to teach ethics at the same time Sanders is asking all departments – including, presumably, the Ethics Commission and city attorney – to cut their costs by 10 percent. And at the same time, of course, that he’s asking all high-level city employees to hand in their resignations.

All to teach people not to be, you know, unethical.

Can’t we just send a letter to their mothers?

Seriously, make a speech – say you won’t tolerate this or that. If they do something unethical, not illegal, warn them, then fire them.

Let the Ethics Commission, city attorney, district attorney, U.S. attorney and International Criminal Court handle the rest.

Because handing a city official a fine or sending them to jail for being unethical may be the best off-campus ethics education for their colleagues that money can buy.

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