Sunny Isles Beach commissioners tentatively approved an ordinance on a first reading March 20 prohibiting elected officials from serving on the board of any corporations that receive money from the city.
The amendment to the city’s code of ethics comes after last month’s City Commission meeting when commissioners questioned if any elected officials would serve on a foundation proposed by Mayor Norman Edelcup that would raise funds for city cultural programs.
“The board would consist of private citizens,” said City Manager Chris Russo at a city workshop meeting. “Not any elected officials. That is our intent.”
The ordinance prohibits elected officials from serving on the board of directors of any profit or nonprofit corporations that receive money or in-kind benefits from the city. In-kind benefits include using any city services such as a facility or police services for free, said city attorney Hans Ottinot.
During the City Commission meeting, Commissioner Jennifer Levin stated that she didn’t know if the ordinance “goes far enough.
“It should trickle down to department heads in the city as well because there is always the potential of conflict of interest or the appearance of impropriety,” Levin said.
A possible way to determine the “threshold” of city employees included in the ordinance could be to include those people required to file a statement of financial interests that elected officials are also required to file, said Levin, adding the state legislature has determined this to be an applicable measure.
Commissioner Jeanette Gatto also mentioned that she would like the ordinance taken “a step further” to include not allowing commissioners to serve on condo association boards.
“We are privy to insider information that may be used as an advantage to a particular building,” Gatto said.
Ottinot noted legally elected officials could not be prohibited from serving on condo or other community boards not involved with the city, but Edelcup noted that himself and Commissioner George Scholl resigned from boards within in the community once elected to office due to their ethical views.
“There’s a perception that when you are an elected official you can raise your magic wand and make things go away,” Scholl said. “It is not accurate but it is certainly perceived that way. We don’t want to [promote] those types of perceptions.”
“Legally it is a right,” Edelcup said at a workshop meeting. “Ethically you have to make your own decisions.”
Gatto said she would resign from the board of a community organization before the ordinance can be adopted at its second reading April 17.
SIB Social Seniors, Inc. is a 501c3 organization that provides trips and events for senior citizens in Sunny Isles Beach, Gatto said. The city voted to donate funds to help launch the organization. The city also provides transportation and $2,500 each financial quarter to the organization.
“I am more valuable to them as a commissioner than I am being on the board,” Gatto said. “It will give the city the opportunity to donate monetary funds or in-kind donations.”