Ethics code overhauled; board out, may be back

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By Thomas Barr

      SHEPHERDSVILLE - The Bullitt County Board of Ethics could be made up of the same three individuals. Or, then again, there could be new board members.

     Bullitt Fiscal Court voted unanimously to approve a new code of ethics ordinance.

     But, because of that, the court members will have to go through the appointment of a new board, which is similar to what was discussed when the Bullitt County Economic Development Authority ordinance was proposed.

     In revising the original 1995 ordinance, magistrate John Bradshaw was concerned with some of the language contained in the legislation.

     A major component in the ethics ordinance is to ensure there is no conflict of interest with elected officials.

     Bradshaw said he didn't agree with the part of the financial disclosure form which required spouses and immediate family members of elected officials to disclose financial information.

     In the past, the forms only dealt with the elected official and their dealings in Bullitt County or the person running for office.

     Bradshaw said he didn't have anything to hide. However, his wife has a business interest in Jefferson County which has nothing to do with Bullitt County. Also, he has no financial interest in the rental property.

     County attorney Monica Meredith Robinson said that the language of the revised ordinance followed the Kentucky Revised Statutes.

     The only thing the Bullitt County Board of Ethics changed was that it excluded county employees and candidates from filing the disclosure paperwork.

     In terms of the reappointment, Robinson said the board members knew that they could be replaced with the passage of the new ordinance. She did recommend placing the appointment issue on the next fiscal court meeting docket.

     Three individuals currently serve on the ethics board.

     She added that the financial disclosure information involving spouses and children was publicized in Jefferson County when one of the councilmembers was involved in an ethics complaint.

     Under provisions of the ethics code, the following office holders would be part of the ordinance: fiscal court, county clerk, county attorney, jailer, coroner, surveyor, constable, sheriff, county judge/executive and anyone who occupies a non-elected office on a board or commission created by the county.

     No officer, employee, board or commission member - or any immediate family member - may have an interest in any business which is a substantial conflict where there is financial gain, unwarranted privileges or advantages or would impair his or her objectivity in making judgments.

     No member can receive gifts valued at over $100 and no county government official can receive payment for services, such as performing a marriage.

     No one covered under the policy can use county property for private use unless as part of a state county policy.

     Those covered under the policy are also prohibited from disclosing confidential information.

     The financial disclosure paperwork is due by 4 p.m. on June 30 each year. The county clerk's office maintains the paperwork, which is a public document.

     Candidates for county office have no more than 90 days from the date of filing to fill out the proper financial paperwork.

     Bradshaw questioned the nepotism provision which mentioned 1995. Robinson said that was the date of the original document prohibiting nepotism. Those employed by that date would not be affected by the new nepotism provisions.

     Anyone with a complaint can do so by contacting the ethics board and a written notice must be given to the person involved within 10 days.

     The board could take action or it could schedule a hearing. The issue would be settled within 30 days of the complaint.

     A person could appeal any decision made by the board to Bullitt Circuit Court.

     The requirement for local governments to start a code of ethics started with work in the General Assembly. The late state Rep. John Harper of Shepherdsville was instrumental in getting legislation passed. He would later become county judge when the original code of ethics was adopted in 1995.