Employee training part of City's stronger ethics push

COVINGTON, Ky. - About two dozen directors and managers at the City of Covington today attended a training session to learn more about the City's strengthened ethics code, part of its ongoing efforts to maintain and improve public trust.
The session was conducted by John Schaaf, executive director of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission in Frankfort.
"Residents invest two things in city government: tax dollars and trust. It's imperative that we value and take care of those investments, and this is part of that process," Covington City Manager David Johnston said. "Ever since I became city manager last August, my goal has been to make sure I'm surrounded by a professional, trained and ethical staff working aggressively on behalf of residents."
Key provisions of the ethics code covered during the training included prohibitions against using city resources to help political campaigns (including equipment, computers and staff time); misuse of confidential information; political solicitations; patronage; gifts; conflict of interests; and falsely impugning reputations.
The training - conducted in the City Commission chambers - was part of an ongoing initiative to deepen and nurture "a culture of ethical behavior" at City Hall that will not only resonate with residents but also protect employees from political influence, Johnston said.
In late 2017, the City Commission voted to create a committee to review the City's Code of Ethics with an eye toward strengthening and modernizing it.
The committee - consisting of Mayor Joe Meyer and Commissioners Tim Downing and Jordan Huizenga - met several times in January to review the code and hear suggestions from the public and outside experts.
Proposed changes in Covington were approved by a vote of the full Commission on Jan. 30. The revised Code, which is listed in Chapter 36 of the Covington Code of Ordinances, can be found through THIS LINK.
The changes were drafted using models from Harvard University and the Kentucky League of Cities.
Schaaf praised the new code. "With those changes in January, Covington now has one of the strongest ethics codes among local governments in the state," he said.
The new code mandated ongoing education and training within City Hall, and Johnston said today's session was doubly important given the spate of new department heads and other staff in the last few months.
Department heads will be holding ethics training sessions tailored to their staff. Johnston said he anticipated holding further training sessions geared toward specific topics later in the year.
Mayor Meyer spoke briefly to employees to reiterate the importance of ethical behavior and to suggest that employees go beyond the written code to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
"Residents need to trust that we're acting in their best interests 100 percent of the time," he said.
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