Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Politics has played a significant role in the ethical questions raised about City Councilman Ken Brenner.
Brenner has acquired a long list of political enemies, and everyone who has appeared before the council to question Brenner's ethics - Bob Maddox, Paul Hughes and a host of former City Council members, for example - is on that list.
Not that we feel much sympathy for Brenner. After all, Brenner publicly challenged former Councilwoman Kathy Connell's ethics, orchestrated the unceremonious and unnecessary ousting of Hughes as city manager in December 2005, and has been one of the most fervent critics of the Steamboat Springs Airport, of which Maddox is a strong supporter. It should come as no surprise, least of all to Brenner, that these individuals now are trying to discredit him. One reaps what one sows.
That said, we believe Brenner has adequately answered the ethics questions that have been raised. He has been accused of using his position as City Council president to seek a season ski pass from Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and to seek free rounds of golf at Haymaker Golf Course for himself and other city officials.
Brenner has ample evidence his ski pass was related to his volunteer work as a coach and ski racing volunteer. As other council members noted, he could have and should have disclosed that he received a pass. His decision to return the pass, we believe, was the right one.
Apparently, Brenner is not the first city official to inquire about favorable rates or passes at the city-owned Haymaker. Bottom line? Golf passes are not something we believe the City Council president should lobby for, and we support the Golf Committee's decision not to give such rates or passes. Beyond that, the matter should be closed.
Steamboat Springs is a small town. Using the six degrees of separation philosophy, just about any elected official can be connected to almost any issue. We certainly would not want the council to engage in such silliness.
We hope City Council members - not just Brenner - will use this recent episode to review the city's Code of Ethics and consider their own actions within the context of that policy. Council members are introduced to the code when they take office. Some highlights of the code:
n Council members not only must avoid conflicts of interest but also the appearance of a conflict of interest.
n Council members must not accept gifts from a person or persons with an interest in a matter pending before the council.
n Council members are prohibited from using information obtained by virtue of their public positions to further a personal interest.
Some have suggested this latest flap has less to do with Brenner than it does with the November City Council election. There may be truth to that. But at least it gives the council an ethics refresher course, and there's nothing wrong with that.