Letter: Alderman candidate calls for ethics code reforms

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Contributed photo

To the Editor:

As an Aldermanic candidate here in Shelton, I have heard from many residents that distrust politicians, and rightfully so. In my short time in local politics I have seen much of what many fear goes on behind the scenes: Egotism, patronage, conflict of interest, and overbearing partisanship, just to name a few. There are also many public examples of wrongdoing in local government, from the infamous 2011 building corruption scandal or the 2013 embezzlement scandal.

If elected I will be committed to rebuilding your trust in local government. This will include improved accessibility, transparency, and honesty about decisions that are being made at City Hall.

But being a good Public Servant will not be enough. In order to rebuild trust we must take a look at recent actions/in-actions and respond accordingly. One example of in-action is our Board of Ethics, which has not met since 2019 and has only met four times since 2013.

Before then, this Board was discussing changes to our Ethics Code (what is a “substantial gift,” as written in the current Code of Ethics?) and to determine who would be responsible for punishing someone found in violation of said Ethics Code. The Board of Aldermen rejected these changes.

Our current Ethics Code is difficult to find and even describes the Board of Ethics as having only three members, when it currently has five members. It has most likely not been updated since the 1970s, is not easily accessible on the City website, and does not cover key ethical issues.

But when confronted with any objection to the way the current Board of Ethics operates, those with power will say that it is an important board that they are working on fixing, and that the reason why the Board of Ethics has not met is because there have not been any complaints filed.

Firstly, with respect to those elected, some have been in their seats for more than 30 years. Is that not enough time to fix the Board of Ethics?

Furthermore, the idea that a Board of Ethics only needs to meet in times of ethics complaints is shortsighted.

In truth, a well-functioning Board of Ethics should meet to review our Code of Ethics, develop and administer an annual ethics training to City employees and elected officials (as recommended by past Republican members), and guide city employees and elected officials when they have ethical questions of their own. Finally, the Code of Ethics, an Ethics complaint form, and the location where to file such a complaint should be easily accessible on our City website.

Trust in our local officials can be rebuilt, beginning with revisions to our Code of Ethics and strengthening our Board of Ethics to hold elected officials and City employees accountable. As your Alderman, I will work to enact these common sense reforms while continuing to carry myself honestly and ethically in both my professional and personal life. That is what you deserve.

Matt McGee

Board of Aldermen candidate, 3rd Ward