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Ethics committee meets for first time

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

For the first time since its creation in the 1990s, the Eminence Ethics Committee held a meeting to discuss concerns raised by a resident.

The board, comprised of three Eminence residents, gathered to discuss a letter from Eminence resident Doug Gingrich regarding a complaint he wanted to file.

Committee chairman Robert Eades said he didn’t see a complaint within the letter against a city official.

“What he wants to do before he complains, is make sure we’re going to be able to be fair and open minded,” Eades said.

The letter contained a variety of concerns including something Gingrich took as a threat. “Recently, I communicated to each one of you that I wanted to present at least one ethics complaint concerning a city official,” Gingrich states in the letter. “One board member told me, ‘They used to kill people like you for doing what you are doing.’ ”

Gingrich, who was not present at the meeting, goes on to state in the letter that he was instructed to deliver his complaint to the mayor and that he felt that was inappropriate. It was not clear from the letter whether the board member Gingrich referred to was a member of the Eminence City Council or the Eminence Ethics Committee.

According to City Attorney Bill Brammell, the process for filing a complaint against a city official is set by the ordinance which formed the ethics committee.

“If he wishes to make a complaint, the process is spelled out here in the ordinance, and he needs to identify that person,” Brammell told the committee. He also said the ethics committee ordinance was intended to handle issues like financial misconduct, inappropriate contracts and nepotism.

“I don’t find anything in this ordinance that pertains to statements or threats,” Brammell said, adding that the committee needed to determine if there was a reason to proceed.

Eades said Gingrich was asking the committee to determine four issues detailed at the end of his letter — discussion of Gingrich’s concerns, assurance that Gingrich’s life would not be in danger because he wants to file a complaint, allowing him an “alternative means to file a complaint,” and assurance that the board would not allow city officials to “approach those concerning potential or actual complaints.”

Eades said the committee didn’t have enough information to address Gingrich’s second concern.

“We don’t have his concerns to discuss (that point) .... that’s ludicrous, that’s due process,” Eades said.

Eades also said the committee couldn’t provide Gingrich an alternative complaint process because the process was set by ordinance which “says it has to go through City Hall.”

Finally, Eades said the last concern couldn’t be addressed because “this is a matter that shouldn’t even involve the ethics committee until they sit down and talk.”

After some discussion, Eades suggested the committee, with Brammell’s assistance, send a letter to Gingrich encouraging him to follow through with the complaint process as dictated by the ordinance, in part because there was nothing in Gingrich’s letter that would involve the ethics committee.

“He has come to me at my house to talk about a few things, but it didn’t make any sense,” committee member Jerry Clark said. “He didn’t have a leg to stand on. It was stuff he was trying to bring up on city employees.

“And then he won’t sign a written statement turned in to activate the board. I just don’t understand. It’s just having us come up here and sit down for nothing. He’s not even here to defend himself.”

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