At last meeting of year, SeaTac Council considers employee ethics, year in review

By Jack Mayne

The final 2016 meeting of the SeaTac City Council Tuesday night (Dec. 13) wrestled over whether a city ordinance is needed to govern city staff ethics or whether it should be decided by the city manager.

After a lengthy discussion, the issue was sent to the Council’s Finance and Administration Committee for discussion, and will return for a decision at the next regular Council meeting on Jan. 10, 2017.

The Council also heard the mayor list the number of items successfully completed by the Council during a year that started out in chaos and ended in harmony.

Employee Ethics Code
Acting City Manager Joe Scorcio outlined the proposal to consider a code of ethics for city employees, somewhat similar to one passed earlier for elected City Council members. The current employee standards were referred to the Council Finance and Administration Committee for discussion.

State law says that most management of the city staff is in the hands of the City Manager, and not the elected Council.

Scorcio said the city has in its employee handbook “elements that address conduct and behavior of city employees, but we do not have one specifically entitled Code of Ethics.”

The proposal would combine all the various part of the handbook regarding employee behavior and conduct into such a code of conduct. The proposed standards include general and specific policies for employees, said SeaTac Human Resources Manager Vanessa Audett.

Audett outlined the employee code policy statement. She noted the policy does not require City Council action because it falls under internal city municipal code policies, which gives such policy management to the city manager.

The general policy statement of the code says, “The City of SeaTac upholds, promotes, and requires the highest standards of ethics from its employees for personal integrity, truthfulness, honesty, responsibility and fairness in carrying out their public duties.

“Employees must avoid any improprieties in their roles as public servants and must never use their city position or authority for personal gain or in breach of the public trust. Employees shall conduct their personal and professional business and dealings in a manner that shall present no perceived or actual conflict of interest between the public trust and an employee’s private interest.”

Council has one employee
At the outset of the Council study session, resident Earl Gipson said that the ethics policy should not be enacted as part of the employee handbook and approved and put into effect by the city manager.

Why should it be enacted only by the city manager and not part of the city code, asked Councilmember Rick Forschler.

Scorcio said he never thought the Council should approve the employee standards because employee standards are in the employee handbook and are controlled by the city manager, under state laws governing the management of cities.

“The City Council has one employee and that is the city manager, and the city manager employs all the rest,” Scorcio said, adding that state law requires the Council to “maintain a certain separation from the staff other than the city manager… .”

Forschler said the matter should be discussed in the Council’s administration and finance committee and then Deputy Mayor Pam Fernald wanted to know if other cities had such personnel standards in city ordinance or simply left under operational control of the city manager.

Mayor’s ‘Year in Review’
Mayor Michael Siefkes gave what appears to be the first “Year in Review” presentation, noting that “as a Council, we’ve had a long year.”

His long list included reestablishment of the city sidewalk committee, the new fire station opening, the Angle Lake light rail station opening, the fact the Council passed into city law a new code of ethics for councilmembers, reduced city licensing fees from $250 to $100 a year, lowered resident’s property taxes, and restored Council committees.

Siefkes also noted that the Council passed resolution supporting ethnic diversity.

He also said “a great success” is a new citizen, Council and business airport committee cited positively by a Burien citizens committee fighting additional noise from Sea-Tac Airport.

The mayor also noted that the Port of Seattle has, at the city’s pressure, started a $1 million for local environmental and ecological project, which was an outgrowth of the city objecting to the Port proposal of cutting down hundreds of trees from the aircraft flight patterns.

“We restructured the property tax that will result in a lot more income for the city for those sorts of road projects that we hear about needing to be done in the city,” Siefkes said.

“We’ve been busy, we’ve had a good year and I appreciate the efforts of those sitting up here and those (staff leaders) sitting over there and those who are home and upstairs,” the mayor said.

He lauded the work of acting City Manager Joe Scorcio, of City Attorney Mary Mirante Bartolo, Deputy City Attorney Mark Johnsen, Economic Development Division Manager Jeff Robinson and Public Works Director Will Appleton.

Expenses, Recognition, Promotion
Vickie Lockwood, at public comment period during the main SeaTac Council session, said she has reviewed Councilmember expenses and feels many were inappropriate. She suggested expenses be reviewed and decided upon before the money is spent, and if an item comes up after payment but later deemed to be inappropriate then the money should paid back immediately by the Councilmember.

Resident Joel Wachtel, rumored to be a candidate for a Council seat in 2017, received cheers and applause after he congratulated the current council for cleaning up past fiscal problem of the previous Council and doing it without raising taxes of citizens.

Acting City Manager Joe Scorcio gave community sponsored 13th Good Neighbor Recognition certificates to Angle Lake resident Lonnie Goulet (pictured below).

Councilmember Kathryn Campbell offered a Korean American Day Proclamation.

Scorcio also told the Council earlier at the study session that he has promoted senior planner Anita Woodmass to the city manager’s office as a management analyst. She has been with the city for over seven years and is a Western Australian native.


One Response to “At last meeting of year, SeaTac Council considers employee ethics, year in review”
  1. Scott Schaefer says:

    This comment has been removed due to uncivil behavior.