At Tuesday's Mesquite City Council meeting, the council voted 4-1 to do away with the Code of Conduct, the instrument that was previously used to muzzle council members and to destroy councilwoman Donna Fairchild.
The document was the embodiment of the "put on a happy face" schtick that was the trademark of the failed previous administration. Among its more grievous standards was the statement that council members were not permitted to say anything negative about boards or committees to which the council members were assigned. Nobody on the council seemed to recognize the irony of a government agency in the United States so blatantly impinging on the First Amendment freedom of speech rights of the council members. As Fairchild said before she died, she didn't surrender her freedom of speech when she took the council oath of office.
Another despicable codicil of the failed and now discarded Code was that council members were forbidden to talk to city employees other than the City Manager.
Despite the fact that Mesquite's City Attorney acknowledges that the Code of Conduct was copied from a document used by Sunnyvale, CA (which is an irony in itself, "Sunnyvale," because the previous administration tried to pretend that everything was sunny and fine in Mesquite), it fit perfectly the aims of a now deposed power hungry City Manager who wanted everything to go through him first, pretending that it would make things more efficient.
Since when is playing the "telephone game" (that game we played as kids, where one person says something to the person next to them, that person passes it on to the next, and so on until it reaches the end of the line as a completely different statement than what was originally said) a model of efficiency? No, it was all about control and power. And it was a horrible idea which contributed to the enormous chasm between the city government and the people they were supposed to be serving. In a well-functioning democracy, a citizen should be able to call a council member, who can then go right to a city employee to get an answer or fix a problem. Not only should it be a council member's right to go directly to a staff member, it should be their responsibility. Yes, it might make the job a little harder for that city employee to have five or six extra bosses in the form of a mayor and council. Tough. The city government is in place to serve and cater to the people, not the other way around.
If you read the Code of Conduct, it makes elected officials look like children who need constant supervision by unelected bureaucrats. For example, one rule is that council members were not allowed to send correspondence to citizens without running it by city staff. Another is that council members weren't allowed to attend city staff meetings unless specifically invited.
Of course, my personal favorite was the section on "Council Conduct With The Media," which opened with this quote: "Keep them well fed and never let them know that all you’ve got is a
chair and a whip." -- Lion Tamer School.
About the only quote that could have provided a more honest and accurate depiction of the previous secrecy-shrouded administration would be if they had simply written "Treat 'em like mushrooms - keep 'em in the dark and feed them plenty of B.S."
As expected, the only councilman to oppose the elimination of the Code of Conduct was Karl Gustaveson, Susan Holecheck's boy and the last vestige of the calamitous Holecheck regime. And it was quintessential Gustaveson. The people spoke loudly during the last campaign in opposition of the Code of Conduct. They didn't like it, didn't want it. But in typical Gustaveson style, he still seems to believe that he knows what's best for us, knows more than the people, and appears to have little interest in what the people want. Even after a lopsided political butt-whipping, some elected officials just aren't smart enough to get the message or learn the lesson.
The good news is that the Code of Conduct is gone, which will open the door for council members to be even more honest and transparent in expressing their opinions to the public, intervening personally on behalf of citizens, and telling the ugly truth instead of putting on a Sunny(vale) face.
To see a copy or bid farewell to the now-defunct Code of Conduct, go to http://records.mesquitenv.gov/sirepub/cache/0/cjpfsa2ay1mf2tavf3jbf3qw/312242072720110807493.PDF.