It appears that Michelle Kennedy, in applying for a job with the city while a member of the Greensboro City Council, may have violated several clauses of the City Council’s new Code of Ethics.
The City Council unanimously passed the new “Code of Ethics, Gift Policy, and Disclosure Requirements for the Mayor and City Council of the City of Greensboro, North Carolina” at its Aug. 2 meeting. If the councilmembers followed the code of ethics then they all should be familiar with what it entails. One clause states the mayor and councilmembers should “faithfully attend and prepare for meetings.”
It appears that for Kennedy to apply for a job with the city may have violated at least two clauses in the Code of Ethics.
The Code Of Ethics states, “1. The Mayor and Council members should obey all laws applicable to their official actions.
“The Mayor and Council members should be guided by the spirit as well as the letter of the law in whatever they do.”
Frayda Bluestein, the David M. Lawrence Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government at the North Carolina School of Government, in an email stated, “I have generally recommended that if a sitting board member wishes to apply for a position in their unit, they should resign before the process begins. This is based on a very technical reading of [NC] GS 14-234.”
NCGS-14-234 in part states, “No public officer or employee who is involved in making or administering a contract on behalf of a public agency may derive a direct benefit from the contract except as provided in this section, or as otherwise allowed by law.”
While whether a city councilmember applying for a job with the city may or may not be a technical violation of the law, it appears it would violate the spirit of the law.
The Code of Ethics also states, “4. If the Mayor or a Council member believes that his or her actions, while legal and ethical, may be misunderstood, the official should seek the advice of the City Attorney and should consider publicly disclosing the facts of the situation and the steps taken to resolve it (such as consulting with the attorney.”
Applying for a job while on the City Council appears to be the kind of situation that this clause refers to. No one could think that it would not be “misunderstood” for a sitting city councilmember to be hired as a department director by the city manager who works for the City Council and therefore the councilmember seeking a job.
According to sources familiar with the situation, the city attorney was not contacted and asked his opinion by Kennedy who had a responsibility to do so according to the Code of Ethics Kennedy voted in favor of approving earlier in the month.