1st order of business on setting ethics board: What will city's code of ethics be?

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A screenshot from city video of Thursday night's Codes and Ordinance Committee meeting.

ROCHESTER - The push for the city to establish an ethics commission moved forward on Thursday with the codes and ordinance board deciding to form an ad hoc working group that will establish a framework for how the commission would function and what the code of ethics should include.

During the roughly 15-minute discussion Codes and Ordinances Vice-Chair Elaine Lauterborn suggested forming the ad hoc working group that might include City Attorney Terence O'Rourke, City Councilor Jeremy Hutchinson who proposed the ethics ordinance, and a few other people, perhaps from either the police commission or school board.

The group would be tasked with drafting a code of ethics to bring back to the codes and ordinance committee and ultimately the City Council for its approval.

Lauterborn said she was hopeful the working group would be able to provide an update at its April meeting, but told The Rochester Voice today, "We are not going to rush this. It's too important."

During the discussion committee members warned of potential problems implementing the ethics commission and that it had to be done deliberately and with an abundance of caution.

Codes committee member Tom Abbott said appointing five random members

of city boards to navigate a potential ethics probe could be time consuming for everyone. He also reminded members that putting someone's reputation at stake during a probe could be risky business.

City Councilor David Walker referenced a recent ethics probe in Portsmouth that found a city councilor guilty but who was later exonerated by City Council.

"We have to tread lightly," Walker said. "What I don't want to happen is what happened in Portsmouth where the situation got political in a hurry."

Codes and ordinances chair Pete Lachapelle said he along with O'Rourke would be looking to form the committee next week.

To read The Rochester Voice article on the Portsmouth case click here.

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