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SALEM City nears approval of conflict measure



Published: Fri, May 4, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The state recommended several months ago that the city adopt such a measure.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

SALEM -- A conflict-of-interest policy seems likely to be enacted in the next few weeks, according to Councilwoman Alma Apicella, R-at-large, who is leading the legislative effort.

The policy, now in draft form, is likely to allow council members and other city officials to benefit from contracts providing goods and services to the city.

But the measure probably would ban them from voting on such contracts and is likely to limit their role in discussion and debate of agreements that would directly benefit them.

How it works: For example, a councilman who also is a businessman could sell his wares or services to the city. But he couldn't vote on the contract to do so and couldn't be part of pre-vote discussions pertaining to the contract, except perhaps to make a brief statement on the matter, Apicella explained.

"It's just trying to protect the city," Apicella said of the conflict-of-interest legislation. She is chairwoman of council's rules and ordinances committee.

In researching the measure, city officials obtained a sample policy from the Ohio Municipal League that limited to $1,000 the amount of goods or services an official could provide.

But that limit is unlikely to find its way into the city's legislation.

"That doesn't seem logical to me," Apicella said of the limit. "I don't want to put a figure on it."

The city's consideration of the measure is unrelated to a recommendation by the state auditor in September that such a policy be implemented, Apicella said.

The state's advice followed its scrutiny of a 1996-98 city hall renovation project.

Probe requested: In September 1999, then-law director David Horning asked the state to probe allegations regarding the $500,000 project. Those included a claim that thousands of dollars worth of work was awarded to a Salem company formerly owned by a city official.

State auditors examined the matter and issued no findings or referrals to prosecutors.

But they advised the city to formulate a conflict-of-interest policy as soon as possible.




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