Addison Doesn’t Need Written Policies
On Transparency and Ethics
It Needs an Honest Mayor
Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)
Todd Meier keeps putting ethics and transparency on the council agenda, pushing for the creation of yet more written “policies.” But Addison already has guidance and standards regarding transparency and ethics. It doesn’t need more. Addison’s real problem is Meier, whose vicious tactics have included a remarkable willingness to ignore transparency and ethics laws and deceive residents. Written policies won’t change that.
Meier’s recent push for paper is, in reality, an effort to deflect attention from his own improper conduct. It started with the AMLI development, approved by the council on February 14, 2017. If you haven’t watched the meeting, you should. You’ll see Meier hijack the meeting in an effort to prevent the council from voting on AMLI, all because Meier opposed the project. Meier repeatedly tried to table the AMLI matter, and when that didn’t work, he filibustered, berating the AMLI representatives with inflammatory, argumentative and repetitive questions. Meier resisted efforts by other councilmembers to draw the meeting back to order, even refusing to accept a motion from Mayor Pro Tempore Bruce Arfsten. It was embarrassing and unprofessional.
Meier clearly understood that his conduct was indefensible, so he embarked on a campaign of misinformation, deflection and diversion. At the next council meeting, Meier attacked the efforts of other councilmembers to draw the AMLI matter back to order, accusing them of interrupting him and claiming that the council now needed to examine council decorum, ethics and transparency. It’s been all smoke and mirrors from Meier to avoid scrutiny of his outrageous conduct in connection with the AMLI discussion.
Now that we understand why Meier keeps putting ethics and transparency on the agenda, let’s talk about why I say Addison doesn’t need more written policies relating to these matters.
First and foremost, Addison is bound by state law, and that includes the Open Records Act and the Open Meetings Act. These laws exist to require transparency from ALL governmental bodies in Texas, including Addison’s council. Addison can’t opt out, so whether it’s written or not, Addison must comply. That means that Addison already has “policies” relating to transparency and ethics, because these laws prescribe minimum standards of conduct that are imposed on politicians like Meier.
And that’s before you consider Addison’s Ethics Ordinance and state law prohibiting the use of Addison resources to attack or support officeholders, candidates and issues. Again, these laws establish standards of conduct without any need for additional action. In addition to all that, Addison’s Charter imposes limitations on the conduct of all councilmembers, including Meier, prohibiting them from directing the activities of any member of Addison’s staff, save and except for when the COUNCIL as a whole votes to direct the CITY MANAGER.
All of which tells us that Addison has plenty of laws and policies and standards relating to conduct, transparency and ethics.
So let’s deal with the proverbial “elephant in the room:” Addison’s problem isn’t an absence of standards. Addison’s problem is Meier. Meier is a brazen politician who has repeatedly ignored these important laws as has been convenient to suit the purpose of the moment. And, who has been willing to undermine and subvert the process of the council as necessary to achieve his personal goals, as he did with respect to the AMLI matter on February 14, 2017. All of which is aided by Meier’s ample acting talent, which is often Oscar-worthy, even as he inflicts harm on Addison, its residents and other councilmembers.
It’s all there in so many examples. Consider last year’s Kanter fiasco. We know that a key document – Lea Dunn’s memo – was improperly withheld, clearly in violation of the Open Records Act. That concealment made Meier’s 2016 campaign of lies possible. The Kanter debacle also brought us Secret Addendum 1, which purported to cloak information that was clearly discoverable under the Open Records Act with the attorney-client privilege. Secret Addendum 1 employed the utter fiction that Kanter was really hired by Addison’s attorneys, something that never happened. As well, Secret Addendum 1 was concealed from the council, the city manager, the staff and the public. It was inaccurately described in the council Consent Agenda, which stated only that Kanter’s contract was being increased to $37,500. Such secrecy clearly violated the Open Meetings Act.
There is so much more to consider; so many examples of Meier’s lawless conduct. But, just looking at the fiasco of Kanter, Secret Addendum 1 and the improperly withheld Lea Dunn memo, tells you all you need to know for purposes of this discussion. Addison’s problem isn’t the absence of policies or procedures. Addison’s problem is a brazen politician who has been willing to ignore the laws that do exist to protect all of us.
Which tells us that we don’t need more policies or more procedures. We have plenty of laws and the standards they describe are clear. Addison doesn’t need more laws, nor does it need more work sessions or meetings at which the real issue of Meier’s lawless conduct is ignored.
What Addison needs is an honest mayor who complies with the law. What Addison needs is TRUTH IN ADDISON.
When we elect honest politicians who commit to being a part of a positive deliberative environment, we will start on the path to returning Addison to the Addison Way.