It was an excellent first step for the Auburn City Council to take when new members were sworn in at the start of the calendar year.
The establishment of a restructured ethics board, which had been inactive since the early 1990s, was a simple, long-overdue step for city hall to take, especially with new leadership on the council and in the city manager's office. And for several weeks, it seemed as if this council priority was moving right along.
But it did not get finished in that early part of the year, and then it almost seemed to have been forgotten for a while.
Last week, though, all of the city councilors said they definitely want to get this deal done. City manager Douglas Selby said he just needed "some" members of council to give him names of nominees for the board. All five councilors told our city reporter they have put in names, so someone is either confused or not telling the truth.
That's certainly troubling, but the more important issue is just to get this thing done.
This renewed attention on the creation of an ethics board should be viewed as an opportunity by city staff and the council to break through whatever has been holding things up for more than nine months.
We urge this to be a concrete topic of discussion at this week's council meeting. And that discussion should make it clear when residents can expect to see an ethics board seated and operating. That means council needs to agree on a concrete deadline, and that deadline should be soon.
The reason an ethics board is so important is that it helps keep city officials honest, not just with city residents they serve but with themselves. It can be easy for a city employee or elected official to internally justify an action that others might consider a conflict of interest or stepping over an ethical line. This board could help provide guidance to city officials before they act. And of course when evidence surfaces that an ethical violation has taken place, having this board available to look into it would be a vital resource.
We think that's what everyone was thinking in January when ethics policies were the hot council topic. It's time to get that focus back and make this important step forward for the city happen.