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3/31/2013 6:00:00 AM
Mohave County employee ethics law proposed
Rule criminalizes lying or fudging facts at meetings

Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - Mohave County Supervisors Steven Moss and Hildy Angius have items on Monday's Board agenda that deal with employee ethics.

Moss wants the Board of Supervisors to set a June 3 public hearing to consider an ordinance making it a misdemeanor for an employee to knowingly lie to or withhold information from the Board in order to influence a vote.

Moss said he had a few experiences during his days serving on the high school board for Mohave Valley where an employee or two had lied to the school board.

"This is one more step to make the county more transparent," Moss said.

Moss said his ordinance would be limited to employees who lied directly to the Board in an open meeting.

"I just want to make sure the Board gets good, honest, open information," he said.

The county's employee merit rules cover situations like this, Moss said, but most employees who speak before the Board are unclassified and are not covered by the merit rules.

The Board can fire an unclassified employee, but Moss wants to add a criminal punishment to discourage these types of situations. What the criminal punishment would include - a fine or imprisonment - would be up to a judge, he said.

He's also requesting the Board discuss the county's compliance with state statutes dealing with the recording of the Board's meeting minutes.

"This is me asking staff questions," Moss said. He has received complaints that the county was not following state statutes by posting the minutes within 72 hours of the meeting and the county's warrants, or list of payments, were not attached to the minutes.

Moss said he feels the county is following state statutes regarding the posting of minutes because video and audio recordings are considered minutes under the law.

However, he wants an official answer from staff on the question.

Angius wants the Board to consider building an employee ethics handbook.

"I believe every organization should have something like this," she said. "It gives employees an idea of what we expect from them."

Angius agreed that the county's merit rules cover some of the issues that would be covered by an ethics handbook, but a separate handbook would make it easier for employees to understand, she said.

"And just by having it shows that we really do care about this," Angius said.

The Board will also consider:

• A request from District 4 Supervisor Joy Brotherton to lift the county's moratorium on accepting new roads into the county's maintenance schedule. The county announced the moratorium in 2011 after the state reduced the amount of Highway User Revenue Funds to the county from $10.5 million to $9.3 million. This year the county is supposed to get $9.9 million.

• A request from District 1 Supervisor Gary Watson to add three roads - Santa Fe Drive, Finance Way and Shipping Lane - in the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park to the county's highway system.

• A request from Watson to give the Mohave County Fairgrounds Association $50,000 to repair the rodeo arena.

• A request to enter an agreement with Mojave Desert Minerals to help pay for road repairs to nearly three miles of road on Oatman Highway. The increased truck traffic from the mine has accelerated wear and tear on the road, according to the Mohave County Public Works Department.

• Writing a letter of concern to the Bureau of Land Management about the Ray Land Exchange. The mining company ASARCO, wants to swap 7,034 acres of private land for more than 10,000 acres of land managed by the BLM. The county is opposing the land swap because it would mean removing more than 6,000 acres of land from the county's tax rolls.

The Board meets at 9:30 a.m. Monday at the County Administration Building, 700 W. Beale St.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Article comment by: Steve Moss

To the extent the reference of one poster is that the BOS doesn't have to comply with disclosure of conflicts, that is in correct.

Why the County did not have the system in place before, I can't tell you. It's required by Arizona law. Even the school boards do it.

So even elected officials will have to disclose conflicts, in writing.

If the criticism is directed to the proposed ordinance (a separate issue) my response below covers it.

Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Article comment by: Steve Moss

I've seen some criticism of the proposed ordinance. As to some of the points raised:

1. It is my understanding that the BOS cannot bind other independent elected officials. So to enable it to withstand scrutiny for constitutionality, I limited the draft to those employees who report to us, the BOS. I also limited it to times where the BOS is sitting as a whole, not individual board members.

2. The BOS is subject to manipulation based upon information provided, or not provided, it. The proposed ordinance is intended to create a consequence for those employees who are so bold as to attempt to manipulate the BOS by providing false or misleading information.

3. The enforcement mechanism is two-fold:

A) if we think a violation has occurred we can refer it to the County Attorney for prosecution. If the CA and a judge agree, a conviction might be obtained. If the CA and a judge don't agree, there is no criminal consequence.

B) If we as a board believe an unclassified (not protected by the Merit Rules) as violated the ordinance, we can fire him or her on the spot. If a classified employee (protected by the Merit Rules) is a suspected violator they'll be referred to their supervisor and possibly a Merit Commission hearing independent of the BOS.

I'm not certain what is meant by the sign comment.

I'm also not certain as to what is meant by reference to my cronies.

If you're clearer on the two accusations I would be glad to respond.

Posted: Monday, April 1, 2013
Article comment by: Hildy Angius

Where does this exempt the BOS? ALL EMPLOYEES....We fill out forms just like everyone else. This is not some Draconian law. Every County does it. We are the only ones who haven't. It is there to protect the County AND the employye.
And for the guy who is accusing Mr. Moss of not cleaning his signs up...that's A DIFFERENT Moss, Jon Moss (no relation) who is running for a City Council that will be decided in May.

Posted: Monday, April 1, 2013
Article comment by: Wally Cleaver

So Hildy, when the supervisors vote on a policy that directly benefits their friends, will they declare that? When Supervisors promote members of their law firm for more public jobs, will they declare that? When supervisors get insider information from relatives that work in sensitive areas of the County, will they declare that? Seems what is good for the goose is good for the gander. It's seems that the County should not be accepting more poor roads into the system while HURF funds pay for another building, and while the governor's budget diverts HURF funds to pay for DPS. Unless they declare that's a road where their friends have property investments.

Posted: Monday, April 1, 2013
Article comment by: Wolf Girl

This is ridiculous. Who is going to decide who is lying or fudging? This Board wants all County business to go through them, they want to micro manage all County Depts and reward their cronies. Now they want to make up their own laws to further intimidate County employees. Nothing has changed with this Board it has only gotten worse.

Posted: Monday, April 1, 2013
Article comment by: Daisy Swift

" Mohave County employee ethics law proposed" - WHAT AN AWESOME IDEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - O)

Posted: Monday, April 1, 2013
Article comment by: Ethan Allen

If you read this ordinance it doesn't just apply to BOS meetings and unclassified employees. I also find it disturbing that it exempts BOS members and other elected officials, so they will be above their own law! It also includes giving incomplete information. Who determines this? Isn't it enough to fire the person, do we need another law on the books and a new criminal one at that!

Posted: Monday, April 1, 2013
Article comment by: Sam Diego

Mr. Moss should worry about honoring the rules about removing political signs once an election is over instead of proposing more rules and regulations that mean nothing.

Look around town Mr. Moss, clean up after yourself.

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Article comment by: Ethan Allen

The actual ordinance does not limit this law to BOS meetings and includes all county employees. I also find it disturbing that it exempts BOS members and other elected officials. So they are above the own law! Another provision makes it a criminal offense for giving incomplete information? Who is determining this and for what purpose? Also isn't it enough to fire someone,which they currently, can do without creating new criminal laws!

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Article comment by: Oh Ya

@ Concerned Employee Resident

Now it will be "take it to the Board".

Are you trying to say things should allowed to be done without "board" approval? Isn't there enough of that?

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Article comment by: Hildy Angius

Concerned Employee: What are you talking about? You sound like we are singling out hard working employees. This is for every employee on every level. I honestly don't know how anyone can argue about an ethics handbook for everyone. I am not singling out anyone. Please tell me what you are referring to. We have been here for three months. If you have something to tell me, please do. I am trying to understand your comment, and I cannot. You can call me at my office anytime. 928-753-0713. What about my agenda items do you have concerns about?

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Article comment by: Concerned Employee Resident

Ladies and Gentlemen of the BOS:

It is becoming clear that there are those among you practicing fast draw at random targets with little or any regard to target identification. Your desire to construct some ethics policy is ill conceived at best. All you are doing is confirming the distrust that the citizenry has of all county business and in particular of the employees. You have not been in office long enough to investigate a problem and evaluate a solution. Yet you expect employees to do what you will not do in this regard. OK, there have been a couple rotten apples and even Supervisor Moss says maybe a couple school board employees lied to him. So what do you do. You embarrass every employee in the County yet not one word of praise for the overwhelming majority that are honest hard working dedicated employees. Do you understand what such a rule will do to the County's ability to function. Now it will be "take it to the Board". You only meet once a month at present which is a handicap to our function and now you propose this. Supervisor Moss...did you consider the sweep of park fins for a park in your district. Supervisor Watson, did you consider the effect of a political agenda item to add roads in the airport. Supervisor Angius...what happened to campaign planks based on the Library issue. Supervisor Brotherton....have you considered the implications of dropping the road maintenance moratorium. Yes, it is a matter of ethics and leadership. What is the consequence of lying to yourself?

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Article comment by: And we thought things were going to change

Sounds like politics as usual. "fudges?" Is that anything like seeing things from a different viewpoint?

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Article comment by: Oh Ya

Oh boy! Talk about tying the hands of the Mayor! Had that been in place awhile back, we may have had a new mayor by now.

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Article comment by: Wally Cleaver

And who is the judge and jury for this, King Moss? How about criminalizing supervisors browbeating those who disagree with them? How about criminalizing supervisors promoting policy changes that help profit their buddies? How about ethics for supervisors? How about supervisors resigning if they hide who benefits from their accepting streets into the County system?

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Article comment by: Donna Wickerd

Good idea...the KUSD school board should consider something similar!

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