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Lisbon ethics board coalescing to hold government accountable

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LISBON – The town council has adopted a code of ethics and formed an ethics board in an attempt to increase government officials’ accountability.

The board will be composed of one council member and two community members. Town councilors will discuss ethics board appointees at their June 12 meeting.

“I don’t know that there are a lot of problems with local communities, but we certainly know within the federal government and state there’s problems,” Town Supervisor James W. Armstrong said.

Mr. Armstrong said the ethics board is essentially an attempt to give residents more of a voice in town government.

The ethics board will serve as an advisory committee and will investigate complaints of ethical violations by town officials and employees.

“They have no police powers, but they can investigate,” Councilman Alan D. Dailey said.

Mr. Dailey said potential problems may arise if the councilor appointed to serve on the ethics board is accused of a violation.

“If that person is implicated, he can’t sit there and adjudicate himself. He’ll have to step aside,” Mr. Dailey said.

Along with the board, the code of ethics will govern town officials’ actions.

The code is largely an attempt to prevent potential conflicts of interest, including ensuring town employees don’t use their positions for “unwarranted privileges.”

Part of the code states that town employees must conduct themselves in a way which “will not raise suspicion among the public that he/she is likely to be engaged in acts that are in violation of his/her trust.”

Anyone found in violation of the code of ethics could face fines, suspension or removal from office or employment.

“It will be useful if you catch someone stealing or something like that,” Mr. Dailey said. “I can’t imagine in a town our size someone being stupid enough to steal [from the town].”

Mr. Dailey said while enforcement of the code may be difficult, it’s a good idea to have it on the books.

“It’s uncharted waters,” he said. “There are going to be growing pains with it. We do have to have something on the books because if you don’t, what are you going to do if you catch someone? At least this gives us a guideline to get us through if we get in this situation.”

Furthermore, Mr. Dailey said, the mere fact that the town has adopted a code of ethics is a step in the right direction.

“I’m hoping for all of us that now that we have the rules and regulations in print it’ll be enough of a deterrent not to violate the public trust,” Mr. Dailey said.

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