So the news staff wrote this yesterday about the mayor’s press conference.

Mayor Jerry Sanders announced the start of a survey asking city employees their opinion and knowledge of the city’s policies and procedures regarding ethics. The survey is part of the mayor’s efforts to address last month’s Kroll report, which pointed to the city’s need to change its ethical culture.

Then I got this from a former City Council staffer:

I can save them some money.

The chief problem is that telling elected officials and the media the truth is a one way ticket to Municipal Siberia.

Classic. Yes, indeed, that is the problem. For too long, the truth was considered a bit of a liability as were dissenters. The mayor has now rightly opened his doors to the media. What the U-T calls City Hall Watchdog Reports aren’t really investigations of a hostile organization, they are big research projects facilitated – not opposed – by the mayor’s office.

The chief problem, though, is that there is little evidence to suggest we’ve had a similar sea change at the City Council. And you can have all the ethics czars, monitors, auditors, auditors general, audit committees, outside auditors, public integrity units, ethics commissions, hotlines and city attorneys you want, but if you don’t solve this problem, they’re just costly bureaucrats.

I’ve been challenged by a couple of people today to say how.

I’ll have to think about that but here’s the first step: The City Council and especially the members of it who were named in the Kroll report, must unmistakably acknowledge what they did wrong and at least admit that they had skewed priorities, made poor choices and pursued reckless agendas. They must send a message that they accept responsibility and are interested in learning from what went wrong, not denying that it ever happened.

(Update: It appears the City Council – at least some of them – did just that at the meeting today. More to come.)

SCOTT LEWIS

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