City Council Considers Ethics, Defers Financial Matters

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By Dave Freneaux

Council Member Aaron Moak was previously named by Mayor Mac Watts to chair a committee to develop a "Code of Ethics" for Central.  Mr. Moak reported that he and new Counci Member Messina, the vice-chair of the committee, had selected four names of citizens to present to the Council for membership on this Ethics Committee.  However, as Council Member Moak researched other state and local Ethics Boards, he came across a recurring rule in many boards requiring that Public Officials, Candidates for Public Office and even Candidates in prior elections, be excluded from membership on many Ethics Boards.  Twenty-three states prohibit Public Officials, most of those staes prohibit Candidates, and three prohibit Candidates from prior elections from serving on Ethics Commissions.
Mr. Moak, concerned that Central begin this effort with no appearance of impropriety, recommended that he and Mr. Messina, along with their four selections, NOT be accepted as the Ethics Committee.  He further suggested that a committee of seven be chosen to serve on the Ethics Committee, one by each Council member and two by the Mayor.  Council Members Moak and Messina have agreed to draw up a resolution for the next Council meeting to formalize this committee structure, presumably giving the qualifications and restrictions for serving on the committee.
In other business before the Council, Mayor Watts opted not to call for a vote for Mayor Pro-Tempore, meaning that Council Member Washington remains in that position.  An ordinances was passed expanding parking violations to include blocking access to mailboxes.  Another ordinance strengthened rights to post no trespassing signs to deter door-to-door selling and limiting hours for such activities to 9AM – 5PM.
Two ordinances introduced by Mr. Washington, one to reduce the budget for the City's Master Plan, and one to eliminate the City's budget for Economic Development, were both deferred by Mr. Washington to allow for further study and negotiation.
The Council voted unanimously to appropriate $23,058 for a traffic study for the possible Hooper Road extension over the Amite River.  The Council also unanimously accepted the $982,105 Road Maintenance bid by Barber Brothers Contracting to repair various roads in central.  Finally, the much-discussed permit fees for the Central Schools renovation and construction were set by a resolution authored by Council Member Louis DeJohn.  The total of all permit fees on the renovations and construction will be approximately $86,000. The combined projects will cost in excess of $40 million.