Herndon Town Council ‘Pretty Close’ to Finishing Ethics Code Update

The Herndon Town Council appears to be getting closer to finalizing revisions of the code of ethics — a move that some councilmembers say will ensure ethical behavior of future councils and erase a perception that the council skirts rules.

The councilmembers discussed the ordinance that would revamp their current code of ethics at last night’s Town Council work session. “I like the changes that you made,” Councilmember Signe Friedrichs told the town attorney. “They made it more easy to understand where things are.”

The ordinance would add this preamble:

WHEREAS, the proper operation of local government requires that public officials be independent, impartial and accountable to the citizens, that governmental decisions and policy be made through proper processes, that public office not be used for personal gain, and that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government and public officials; and

WHEREAS, as public officials we are charged with upholding the trust of the citizens and with obeying the law and respecting established policies and procedures; and

WHEREAS, as public officials we have taken the oath of office and have pledged that we will support and maintain the Constitution and laws of the United States, and the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia and further that we will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of our office.

NOW THEREFORE, in recognition of our obligations as citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia and as public officials and citizens of the Town of Herndon, we do hereby adopt the following Code of Ethics to guide the Town’s council and council appointed board and commission members.

The rest of the ordinance also adds four more adjectives to describe how members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members should act, including: “faithfully and impartially perform their duties,” “demonstrate… independence” and “treat the public, town staff and each other in a respectful… manner.”

The councilmembers discussed how the new wording balances a need for more specific language with the concern that trying to list every single unethical behavior could end up missing some things.

The ordinance also would add numbered subheads and references to applicable sections of the Town of Herndon’s code and charter and the Code of Virginia. (The code of ethics is currently located in Article I of the second chapter under the Herndon Town Code.)

In addition to the code of ethics, Vice Mayor Sheila Olem said that she is looking forward to seeing social media guidelines.

“I think we have spent a ton of time on this, and we have a nice document here that should be — I feel like after all these discussions — pretty close, if not ready, for prime time,” Mayor Lisa Merkel said.

Image via Town of Herndon

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