BRENTWOOD -- In response to Mayor Bob Taylor posting campaign signs on a city vehicle at a public event during election season, his fellow City Council members are looking to clarify the legality and ethics regarding elected officials using city equipment.
Due to the vagueness of the city's current policies and penalties for this type of usage, the council decided to form a committee that will examine rules, procedures and penalties surrounding violations and later plan to create an ethics policy.
Councilman Erick Stonebarger, who requested that the council investigate this matter, questioned whether the recent campaign incident violated election law, the ethics training required of the council or just common sense. The city's current policies do not include clear language for council violations, Brentwood City Attorney Damien Brower said.
"We had what I think is a violation of using city equipment to campaign," Stonebarger said at Tuesday night's meeting.
Similarly, Councilman Joel Bryant stressed the need for clear policies and expectations of the council as public servants. He also expressed concern about the council's lack of an ethics policy.
"We need something to protect us going forward," Bryant said. "I think that any governing body that doesn't have an ethics policy is looking at real problems."
According to Brower, council members are required by state law to take part in two hours of ethics training every two years. He added that, since 2006, every council member has taken or will take the training in the next few weeks.
Councilman Steve Barr said that disciplining each other is a difficult council discussion, but it is imperative that public officials be self-governed and act in a highly professional manner. He reinforced the need for a disciplinary policy in regard to the use of city equipment.
"We lose a lot of rights as public officials," Barr said. "We do need to hold ourselves to a minimum standard and I would like to see it higher."
Taylor did not comment during the discussion on the incident but did vote in favor of the motion. On Wednesday morning, Taylor noted that he immediately removed the signs when told that he was out of compliance.
"Guidelines are always good," he said.
Stonebarger and Bryant will serve on the new council subcommittee. Stonebarger said that the incident put the city staff, police department and community in "a terrible position."
"You need to have those boundaries in place to hold people accountable," he said.
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