May 12, 2021 •
Wichita, Kansas City Council Passes Ethics Policy on Gifts
Wichita City Council members will no longer be left to police themselves on ethics violations after passing a long-awaited and much-debated policy on May 11.
The ethics policy sets gift limits for elected and appointed city officials for the first time in city history.
It applies to all city board appointees and council members.
The new policy creates a seven-member Ethics Advisory Board to investigate and rule on ethics complaints.
City officials could be censured or fined up to $1,000 for serious violations.
Lesser offenses would require an official to undergo ethics training.
It also offers whistleblower protection to city employees who report violations.
The City Council also kept in place a 63-year-old ethics ordinance prohibiting favorable treatment to “friends,” a word council members struggled to define last month before scrubbing it entirely from the new policy.
After the vote May 11, the City Council now has two ethics codes: a city law, which has been in place since 1958, and a new City Council policy.
Keeping the ordinance in place will be a helpful transition until the council appoints an Ethics Advisory Board and an ethics officer to lead the board.
Related to gifts, the new policy caps what city officials can receive at $150 a year from a specific donor, with some exceptions.
Additionally, any gifts more than $50 must be reported annually.
The policy carves out exemptions to what is considered a gift, allowing city officials to accept unlimited gifts in the form of food and event admission from any nonprofit organization, political or policy-based group, educational institution, community development or faith-based organization.
Those gifts could include anything from free tickets to college sporting events to golf tournaments.
City officials covered by the policy are also entitled to unlimited free meals “when their presence is requested to attend a meeting or event.”
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