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Ethics task force will promote openness, accountability

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PHOENIX – A committee tasked with evaluating the city’s ethics standards will promote transparency, openness and accountability, Mayor Greg Stanton said Monday.

“The goal is to maximize public confidence in decision-making,” Stanton said at a news conference announcing the effort.

Chaired by former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, the Ethics Review Ad Hoc Task Force will dissect current policies, hear public input and compile a set of best ethical practices to be unveiled at year’s end.

“To make sure you’re on the cutting edge you have to put committees like this together,” Stanton said.

Although Stanton said he didn’t want to point fingers, he mentioned the furor over some state lawmakers accepting and not reporting free tickets and travel from the Fiesta Bowl. No lawmakers were charged over those gifts.

He also said charges against some state lawmakers in the past year illustrate the need to review ethics standards.

“Just because we haven’t had a scandal in the city of Phoenix doesn’t mean we’re immune,” Stanton said.

Romley, who was in charge of AzScam, the sting that led to the 1991 indictments of seven state lawmakers for accepting bribes from an informant, said he hopes to develop a set of best practices dealing with gifts and  family, financial and personal conflicts.

“We’re not just dealing with elected officials,” Romley said. “Remember, the charge is for everyone that touches the city of Phoenix in some manner. We’re going to be looking at an ethics policy for them.”

He said the first phase of the project will tap into the community and the city’s more than 14,000 employees.

“We shouldn’t just be hearing from the heads of these departments,” Romley said.

The task force will be hearing from labor unions and the public at open meetings beginning Sept. 16. The findings will be compiled into a set of ethical recommendations that will be presented to the Public Safety, Transparency and Ethics Subcommittee.