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Ethics rules tweaks coming

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 by Jo Clifton

The city’s Ethics Review Commission has just one item to address, but commissioners’ plates will be full at a special-called meeting Wednesday night to discuss proposed changes to the city’s ethics ordinance. A three-member subcommittee of the commission has been working with representatives of the solid waste industry to try to arrive at some fixes for the ordinance. On Monday, the subcommittee met in City Council chambers and got a discussion document from attorney Michael Whellan, who represents Texas Disposal Systems. Whellan outlined a change that he and attorney Nikelle Meade, who represents Synagro, had agreed would make sense for their clients: suspending any solicitation in which one of the competitors was disqualified until after an appeal had been completed. He said he understood that there could be emergencies and proposed that there be a stay of the solicitation process unless Council waived that. Whellan said, “Just this one time I agree with Nikelle,” crediting her with coming up with the idea. He acknowledged that staff would probably not like the idea but said it is unfair to disqualify a bidder and go on with the process, because the disqualification may be overruled. It is not clear how long it will take for any proposed changes to get back to Council, but Council Member Leslie Pool originally asked her colleagues to postpone the matter to Oct. 19. This week’s regular meeting has been canceled because Council will be interviewing candidates for city manager. Austin Water is particularly concerned about having an ethics ordinance in place so that they can move forward with a request for proposal for a new biosolids contract.

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