Sunny Isles Beach commissioners on Thursday rejected an ordinance that would have prohibited city officials from serving on the boards of any corporations that receive money from the city.
The decision is an about-face from last month’s meeting when the commission tentatively approved the ordinance, which would have prohibited elected officials from serving on the board of directors of any for-profit or nonprofit corporation that received money or in-kind benefits from the city. In-kind benefits included city services such as free use of a city facility or free police services, said city attorney Hans Ottinot at the time.
Commissioner Jeanette Gatto said for the first time in her nearly four-year tenure she was reversing her decision.
Gatto said she was for the ordinance on its first reading because it “tied up neatly some gray areas” but once she became aware the county and state code of ethics covered the issues addressed in the ordinance, she changed her mind.
“There would be some unintended consequences that tied our hands,” Gatto said.
If the ordinance had passed, those “unintended consequences” would no longer allow a local blood center, where Commissioner George Scholl said he has been a board member for more than 12 years, to have blood drives at city facilities.
“We started with something that was very well intended [but] … as you dig deeper we are creating more issues than we need to,” Scholl said.
Commissioner Jennifer Levin also agreed that there would be unintended consequences if the ordinance passed.
“But there is still the potential for the appearance of impropriety of commissioners serving on boards that are given money by the city,” Levin said.
Mayor Norman S. Edelcup said the county and state ethics laws protect the citizens of Sunny Isles Beach. Another safeguard would be the ordinance that was passed at the meeting requiring approval of four out of the five commissioners to approve monetary or in-kind donations to charitable organizations. This ordinance is in compliance with the city’s charter, Ottinot said.
“Sometimes our good intentions may lead us down a slippery slope that may have unintended consequences or bad results,” Edelcup said.
The ordinance to amend the city’s code of ethics comes after a Feb. 20 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.