THE Bellevue City Council is overdue for updating its code of ethics, which provides transparency and guidance for the conduct of public officials.
Bellevue’s current ethics rules apply to city staff, not to elected officials. The absence of clear guidelines for the city’s lawmakers has exacerbated the allegations of conflicts of interest plaguing the council for several years.
Even the appearance of a conflict can be damaging to the public’s trust.
Councilman Kevin Wallace erred two years ago when he urged the city to use an abandoned rail corridor for a Sound Transit line, while failing to disclose that his development company was negotiating a $30 million private investment deal along the same corridor. An outside investigator later concluded Wallace had not violated any laws.
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Councilwoman Claudia Balducci also has faced questions about her role on the Sound Transit board and as a King County employee.
The solution is a strong ethics policy for the part-time council and members of city commissions and boards. Council members need guidance on the extent to which they can have financial or property connections to the city and when they should recuse themselves from voting.
In recent weeks, the Bellevue council has debated at length a proposed ordinance modeled after one adopted by the Kirkland City Council last year.
Clear guidelines should be in place before the council takes upcoming votes on land uses in Bellevue’s downtown corridor.
The ethics policy is scheduled to come back before the council on May 28. It is not perfect but it should be approved.