Town Officials To Establish New Municipal Body To Ensure Compliance with Code of Ethics


New Canaan’s legislative body is pursuing the creation of a standalone commission that would help ensure that the town’s Code of Ethics—an ordinance that applies to employees of the town, police and school district— is adhered to throughout local government.

Though New Canaan has a 3-person Personnel Advisory Board that can hear complaints from any public employee, “there is no process to take consideration of anybody that may be considered in violation of a Code of Ethics, which we do have,” Town Councilman Kathleen Corbet said during the group’s Jan. 20 meeting, held at Town Hall.

“The Code of Ethics is a bit outdated—last amended in 1996—and if you look at it relative to other towns’ Codes of Ethics, it’s time for a refresher and this is a perfect thing for a Board of Ethics to focus on and to get to work on.”

The Charter calls for the establishment of a Code of Ethics, and it’s spelled out in Chapter 17 of the Town Code, addressing such matters as municipal employees’ use of town-owned property, special treatment, disclosure of confidential information, acceptance of gifts and favors, and bidding for public contracts.

Working with fellow councilman Kevin Moynihan, Corbet had researched Boards of Ethics or Ethics Commissions in other lower Fairfield County towns—their genesis, duties and term information for members— and “virtually everybody with exception of Westport surrounding us has an established ethics committee, most of which are formed in the ordinances but some have them in charters,” she said.

Town Council Vice Chairman Steve Karl called the notion of establishing an Ethics Committee of some sort “a great idea.”

“I think it’s time we talked about it,” Karl said. “We have talked about whistleblowing issues and so far the Audit Committee has had to field some of those individual complaints and we’d like to have a committee that’s better suited to that.”

His comments refer to one of the recommendations that New Canaan’s Audit Committee had made in November, that the town become even more responsive and consistent follow-up on “whistleblower” items.

Corbet underscored that the idea of creating a Board of Ethics or something similar “emanated from a number of different sources.”

“No one thing is driving this research,” she said.

Town Council Chairman Bill Walbert said that First Selectman Rob Mallozzi also has some thoughts on creating an Ethics Committee and urged those working on it to connect with him as they go along.

Corbet, who sits on the Charter Revision Commission, said the town could have a “small reference in the Charter about it but then expand it in the ordinance.”

“I welcome your feedback, comments and questions, but we are aiming to move forward with this and I would like to see it in place—not unreasonably—before the budget [season] ends, maybe by April.”

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