Council considers ethics policy

The Manassas Park City Council agreed Tuesday night not only to consider a proposed ethics policy for council members but to include the city staff in the policy as well.

The suggestion to expand the proposed ethics policy was made by Councilman Kevin Brendel, who has criticized the city’s release of information discussed during closed sessions of the council.

“I suggest everyone review it to include city staffers as well,” Brendel said.

Brendel has questioned whether City Manager David W. Reynal and Assistant City Manager Brett Shorter should have released information on the severance agreement last fall between the city and Councilwoman-elect Noreen Slater, who was then the city’s director of social services.

The City Council plans to write the final version of its ethics policy in July — either during a work session or a retreat for council members that has yet to be scheduled.

The idea of an ethics policy for council members was brought up in April by Vice Mayor H. Marie Baker, who asked City Attorney Dean Crowhurst to research the possibilities.

As part of his research, Crowhurst put together a proposal based on the standards outlined by International City/County Management Association.

Adherence would be voluntary. If adopted in its present farm, Manassas Park City Council members would promise to follow the following guidelines:

Avoiding gifts of any form if there is a chance that gift would be linked to the council members’ official duties;

Showing professional respect for other council members, as well as city employees;

Staying away from matters where there appears to be a conflict of interest;

Avoiding investments that might cause a conflict of interest;

Refraining from endorsing any commercial products or services;

Never disclosing any confidential information.

“This is something simply to aspire to. The governing body would let everyone know that they are willing to live up to the standards,” Crowhurst said.

At this time, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors is the only elected body in Northern Virginia to have adopted an ethics policy. The board approved an ethics policy in October 1996. But the present board has never accepted it.

Also Tuesday night, the City Council voted unanimously to rezone 8 acres between the Manassas Park Village Shopping Center and Corondelet Drive, allowing developer Lawrence Doll’s Digital Park LLC to plan the construction of 124 apartments and 24 town houses restricted to residents over the age of 55.

The final plans for another Doll project –a 350-unit apartment complex next to the city’s Virginia Railway Express Station –was also approved in a unanimous vote.

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