Valpo must reconcile state, local ethics ordinances
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent June 25, 2012 11:24PM
VALPARAISO — The city must now reconcile its ethics ordinance with the new state statute, which all Indiana municipalities are required to adopt by July 1.
The City Council voted Monday to adopt the statute, and City Attorney Ethan Lowe said he plans to meet this week with the Ethics Commission’s attorney to work on implementation.
They need to decide whether to revise the current ordinance, replace parts of it or leave it alone, Lowe said.
It may be easier because Valparaiso has an existing law, updated this year after a conflict arose over the city hiring Fire Chief David Nondorf’s son Nicholas to the department.
“A lot of municipalities do not have an existing ethics ordinance,” Lowe said.
The state’s ethics statute is a bit stricter than the city’s.
Lowe said that the statute, similar to the city’s ethics rules on police and fire department hirings, does not allow anyone to be in direct supervision of a family member.
Under the state statute, that also holds true for elected officials, and if a municipality offers a contract to an elected official’s family member or their business, there are steps.
The city must file with the circuit court and the State Board of Accounts a reason for the hiring, either it being the lowest responsible bid or some other acceptable reason.
The state statute also includes relatives beyond immediate family.
The city’s current ethics ordinance allows for family members to be hired on the police and fire departments because those are “legacy” careers.
Family members tend to follow in those careers in all cities.
However, no one in those departments can be in direct supervision of a relative, and if they are in a position to hire, fire or discipline a relative, another department official takes their place.
The state’s statute also divides municipal employees into two classes.
Employees hired on July 1 or earlier are not affected by the state statute or any municipality’s adoption of it.
That’s as long as they are continuously employed.
Those hired after July 1 are governed by the statute.