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Rockville City Council Agenda: Ethics Ordinance Hearing, Citizen Survey and Budget Work

An update from Rockville Economic Development Inc. is also on deck.

 

A hearing on proposed changes to the city’s ethics ordinance, a discussion of the 2012 Citizen Survey and preliminary discussions of the city’s fiscal 2014 budget top the Rockville City Council’s agenda for Monday.

The council meets at 7 p.m. at City Hall. The meeting will be broadcast live on Rockville 11.

The council also is scheduled to hear the monthly update from Rockville Economic Development Inc. executive director Laurie Boyer and to issue a proclamation recognizing Oct. 15-19 as “Economic Development Week in the City of Rockville.”

Ethics ordinance hearing

The council is scheduled to hold its second public hearing on changes to the city’s ethics ordinance. The first hearing was held Sept. 24.

The proposed changes would bring the city’s ethics ordinance in compliance with a new state law.

Proposed changes include:

  • Establishing a city ethics commission to:
    • Develop policies and procedures for the processing complaints and requests for advisory opinions.
    • Enforce the ethics ordinance, “including assessing late fees, issuing reprimands, imposing fines and recommending disciplinary actions,” according to a report from city staff.
  • More specific conflict of interest provisions, including:
    • Prohibitions on the acceptance or solicitation of certain gifts, including a provision requiring that “meals and beverages must be consumed in the presence of the donor or sponsoring entity.”
    • An exemption from the prohibition of certain gifts, including “unsolicited nominal gifts” of up to $20 in value.
    • A clearer definition of potential conflicts, including “more specific situations which would prohibit an official or employee from participating in a specific matter” and an expanded definition of family members that includes siblings as well as spouses, children and parents.
    • Allowing a person to participate in a matter in which they have a conflict if prohibiting their participation “leaves a body with less than a quorum capable of acting,” the report said.
    • A prohibition on a mayor or council member acting as a paid representative of a party with a pending legislative matter before the council for two years after leaving office.
  • More extensive financial disclosure provisions, including:
    • Requiring financial disclosure statements from individuals appointed to an office for which a financial disclosure statement is required and from individuals who leave office (by any reason other than death) for which a statement is required.
    • An extension on the retention period for financial statements from two to four years.
    • An expanded list of financial interests required to be disclosed that would include: real estate holdings inside and outside of Maryland, “financial interests acquired during the reporting period and all salaried employment held by the individual and the individual's immediate family,” the staff report stated.
    • More extensive reporting requirements for liabilities owed to companies doing business with the city and for all sources of income.

Click here to view the ordinance.

The public comment period has been extended through Oct. 22. Send testimony to: mayorcouncil@rockvillemd.gov or to Rockville City Hall, Office of the City Clerk, 111 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850.

Citizen survey

The council is scheduled to discuss the 2012 Citizen Survey.

The city has a $33,520 contract with the Boulder, CO-based National Research Center to mail the survey to 2,000 city residents. The city also has an $8,875 contract with Rockville-based Dragonbridge for translation services.

The survey is used to gauge residents’ satisfaction with city services and to develop budget priorities. The city last used the survey two years ago when it received responses from 761 residents.

NRC is recommending several new questions on this year’s survey, including one that asks, in the face of projected declines in tax revenue, whether residents would prefer tax increases or a reduction in services.

Other proposed new questions ask about use of the city’s water and sewer service, yard waste collection service and information technology services; the city’s level of emergency preparedness; and opinions on how well the city’s recreation programs promote “health and wellness.”

Budget work

The council is scheduled to discuss salaries and benefits for city employees.

Last year, the council approved a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for non-senior city employees and a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment for senior employees for fiscal 2013, which began July 1.

Total salary costs for all regular city employees are $35.3 million for fiscal 2013.

In recent years, the mayor and council members have looked for ways to rein-in city spending on employee retirement costs. Projected spending on the defined benefit and define contribution components of the city's retirement plan is expected to reach nearly $5 million in the current fiscal year.

The council is also scheduled to discuss the state of the fiscal 2014 general fund budget. The discussion originally was scheduled for last week’s meeting. Click here for more information.

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