Mayor creates Office of Public Accountability
by Joe Wilhelm Jr., Staff Writer
Mayor Alvin Brown marked the end of Sunshine Week last week by signing legislation that approved a director and funding for the new Ethics, Compliance and Oversight Office and announced the creation of the Office of Public Accountability.
The mayor’s signature was the last step for ordinances 2012-10, which appointed Carla Miller as the new director of the office, and 2012-85, which appropriated $142,509 from the Office of General Counsel/Ethics Office to fund the office. The funds were budgeted for the City’s former Ethics Office, but that office was eliminated and replaced.
“I have long been a proponent of promoting ethics within government and other organizations,” said Brown at a news conference Friday at City Hall.
“As mayor-elect, I attended the ethics training held for newly elected officials. Today I’m signing two critical pieces of legislation that support my strong belief in ethics in government,” he said.
The office was created by Ordinance 2011-197E, which was enacted June 16, and it stated: “It is the intention of Council that the Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Oversight be budgeted and operational commencing with the 2011-2012 fiscal year, and that all positions of this office be filled with existing budgeted city positions and that no additional funding be necessary to staff the office.”
Despite that language, Brown sought further clarification of the intent of the legislation by City Council. This led Council member Clay Yarborough to introduce 2012-85 to eliminate the City’s Ethics Office, replace it with the ethics compliance office and transfer funding.
“The key was, we’re here now, we got it, it’s done. I think everyone had good intentions. Sometimes there has to be clarity in government, those things happen. The good news is that everyone got together, worked together and decided it was the best course to make it happen,” said Brown.
The new Office of Public Accountability was introduced and created to coordinate responses to public records requests, maintain online registries and records postings, and take other steps to promote open government and freedom of information.
Brown did not name the office director, but said it would not be an additional form of government and “will not require additional taxpayer dollars.”
“I do know that taxpayers do want more accountability” and transparency in government. They want to know how things work,” said Brown.
“There were some challenges, obviously, before I got here. This issue was not resolved prior to me coming here, so now I’m here and I’m making sure we get it done,” he said.
Sunshine Week is the national initiative to recognize the importance of open government and freedom of information.
The initiative was created by the American Society of News Editors in March 2005 with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which continues to support the initiative.