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Phoenix ethics task force recommends disclosure of gifts, commission

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Would you believe if a Phoenix elected official was up to no good, there's no process in place to sanction or even investigate? Well, the City Council decided Tuesday to change that.

Last September, an ethics task force was created. For the past several months they've been looking at ethics policies across the country and they presented their recommendations to the City Council Tuesday.

When former county attorney Rick Romley and the rest of the Phoenix ethics task force got to work, they noticed city employees were held to a very high standard.

"Then we saw there was absolutely nothing for elected officials," Romley said. He told the Phoenix City Council Tuesday they believe there should be an ethics handbook and five-person commission to hold those we elect accountable.

"Commission members act as the individual that takes in the complaint, eventually makes the decision, and they have the ability to hire an investigator," Romley said.

Details on this commission still need to be ironed out. The ethics task force wanted to see people with different occupations, like a former elected official and a judge. But city leaders want only want to see judges on this commission, and may even want to dictate race, gender and political affiliation.

The task force said any elected official who accepts a gift worth more than $50 - and that passes the smell test - must be disclosed to the city. They want to create a searchable, online database with that information and keep it public two years after the official has left office. And while some want to see a complete ban on gifts, others said it isn't feasible.

"That's what the public is telling me, they like the idea we put more transparency in it but they really want to see a ban on politicians getting gifts," said Councilman Sal DiCiccio.

"You don't want to undermine the accepting of an award that says Phoenix is the most outstanding city in the country or something such as that," Romley said.

If this proposed commission decides the elected official acted inappropriately, most of City Council wants the voters to decide whether the politician stays in office, but Mayor Greg Stanton said that should be up to them.

"It's an awesome power to have, the power to remove from office, but I trust this body would use that power incredibly judiciously," Stanton said.

Many details still up in the air. City staff will report back in 60 days with their recommendations. We're told we may see some changes this year, but most won't be fully implemented until the end of next year.

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