Four Top of Utah cities will join forces to form an ethics commission that can hear potential grievances against elected officials in their communities, as well as top administrators in city government.
Layton, Roy, Clearfield and Bountiful are expected to take individual action to create municipal ethics commissions, in response to state legislative action in 2012 that allows for ethics cases to be handled by local government bodies, or by a state group.
The Layton City Council formally established a commission by unanimous vote at a recent meeting. Other partners in the group are expected to address the issue in upcoming meetings. A fifth Top of Utah community also is considering participation in the group, said Layton City Attorney Gary Crane.
The setup is expected to allow city attorneys from participating partners to form a panel to hear grievances from neighbors, while allowing the city attorney from the community where the grievance is filed to potentially defend the city official under review, Crane said.
Any findings by the group commission would not be binding, because it would still be up to individual city governments to address the violation in the end, Crane said. The guidelines stipulate that the group would not hear any criminal cases.
Crane said several communities in Salt Lake County are also getting together to address the ethics review issue.
The ethics guidelines also prohibit any case being brought against an elected official within 60 days of an election, Crane said, helping avoid what he termed "slap suits."
Each community will be required to file a report on the number of cases filed at the end of each year, Crane said.
Besides elected officials, the ethics group also would hear potential complaints against some city administrative leaders.
Crane doesn't expect the local group to hear many cases. The Layton attorney said:
"I don't anticipate it will happen often. This is a good set of rules."