An SOS Call to Action The Save Our Springfield citizens’ coalition was created for the express purpose of looking at the problem being faced by the City of Springfield with an eye toward finding actual solutions to those problems rather than simply sniping at the City from the side. We have always wanted to simply be a sounding board by which the City Council and City Administration might be made more acutely aware of the questions and concerns held in the minds of the citizens and taxpayers of Springfield. That being said…
It is time for Mr. Burris to give account for his unethical actions in the recent election. • The City Manager is to be an individual, who acts in a completely apolitical fashion during his tenure with the City. • This is one of the foundational tenets of the code of ethics guiding the profession. • When a City Manager violates that trust, especially in an election of Council Members to whom he will be answering, he can no longer be allowed to retain that position.
The Timeline • Nov ’08 – Council Candidates Fred Ellison and Tom Martz send emails back and forth to one another in discussion of possible solutions to the Pension Fund problem. • Dec 7th – After a discussion with Mr. Burris about an editorial in the News-Leader on the matter, Mr. Ellison forwarded those emails as background information of their thoughts to Mr. Burris.
The Timeline • Dec 8th – Mr. Burris forwarded those emails to Tony Kelley (and several others) in order to offer a warning “so that no one gets blind-sided by upcoming comments or suggestions.” • Dec 18th – The Firefighters’ union holds a candidates forum attended by Mr. Ellison and Mr. Martz.
The Timeline • Both candidates expressed what had become their final conclusions on the matter, that the City’s obligations to honor previous agreements with the unions had to be honored, though how those payments could be made might be a subject to consider in the future.
The Timeline • However, because they had received those emails from Mr. Burris, which contained half-considered ideas as brain storming sessions do, the union determined that the two candidates in question were being less than honest with them in the forum. • There are no emails after the 18th, nor any other statements made by either candidate, that contradicts what they said in that forum.
The Timeline • The Firefighters determined to endorse Council Members-elect Stephens and Rush, including (according to a story in the News-Leader today) financial support, advertising, and/or volunteer work such as making signs and knocking doors for those candidates. • On Monday April 6th, on the Vincent David Jericho Radio Program, Tony Kelley called in and explained why the firefighters’ union had acted as it had.
The Timeline • “We found that [the expression of Martz’ and Ellison’s positions in the candidate forum] to be disturbing…I have an email where both of them are exchanging back and forth about what would be [an apparent contradiction to those answers]…We felt like that maybe they were lying to us” http://www.ksgf.com/Podcasts/VincentDavidJericho/tabid/3508/Default.aspx • Please remember that this is the day before the election itself…
The Timeline • Fred Ellison lost to John Rush by 208 votes, or 1.85% of the votes cast. • Tom Martz lost to Robert Stephens by 510 votes, or 4.62% of the votes cast.
The ICMA • The International City/County Management Association is the guiding association of professional City Managers. • There is provided by that association a code of ethics that outline how it is that City Managers must comport themselves so as to not cross the ethical lines of professional administrators.
ICMA Code of Ethics • Tenet 7. Refrain from all political activities which undermine public confidence in professional administrators. Refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body. • In order to express the full intent of these tenets, the ICMA also provides guidelines explaining them in context. These explain:
ICMA Code of Ethics • Elections of the Governing Body. Members should maintain a reputation for serving equally and impartially all members of the governing body of the local government they serve, regardless of party. To this end, they should not engage in active participation in the election campaign on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for the governing body.
ICMA Code of Ethics • Elections. Members share with their fellow citizens the right and responsibility to vote and tovoice their opinion on public issues. However, in order not to impair their effectiveness on behalf of the local governments they serve, they shall not participate in political activities to support the candidacy ofindividuals runningfor anycity, county, special district, school, state or federal offices. Specifically, they shall not endorse candidates, make financial contributions, sign or circulate petitions, or participate in fund-raising activities for individuals seeking or holding elected office.
ICMA Code of Ethics • I personally spoke with Martha Perego, ICMA Director of Ethics, and, without giving any identifying characteristics of either Mr. Burris, the City, or anyone else involved, Ms. Perego was astounded that any Manager would insert himself into an election as overtly and unethically as Mr. Burris has done.
ICMA Code of Ethics • Ms. Perego went on to say that if a member of that body were to be reported to ICMA for such behavior, and ethics investigation would be immediately undertaken, and that such egregious infractions are taken very seriously by all professional City Managers.
SOS Recommendation • Given the very serious nature of this action of Mr. Burris, and the clear ramifications of his behavior… • SOS has no option but to call for his immediate resignation as City Manager. • Short of that, we would encourage the new City Council to investigate this matter thoroughly, and, once all facts are confirmed in their minds, take the steps necessary for Mr. Burris to leave that position of trust and responsibility.