A coalition of state and local groups is pushing Lincoln to pass a proposed charter amendment that would bar City Council members and the mayor from having any business contracts with the city
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A coalition of state and local groups is pushing Lincoln to pass a proposed charter amendment that would bar City Council members and the mayor from having any business contracts with the city.
The coalition says the amendment would promote fairness and eliminate potential and perceived conflicts of interest.
"It is not fair for a person on a City Council or the mayor to bid on city work," said Roger Holmes, a small-business owner and the president of Common Cause Nebraska, one of the groups pushing for reform in Lincoln.
"It is at best awkward and at worst poses real problems for employees of the city who oversee the contract," he told the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/TRu1T0 ).
The group intends to ask the City Council next month to add the charter amendment to the May 7 city ballot.
Councilman Jon Camp, who once rented office space to a city agency, opposes the proposal and calls it "an affront to the business community."
The current system is adequate to prevent conflicts of interest, Camp said. It requires full disclosure and bars a council member with a city contract from voting on it.
The council needs experienced businesspeople, Camp said, and said it's already "a huge financial sacrifice for a businessperson to serve on the council."
Supporters of the proposal disagree and say a ban wouldn't hurt candidate recruitment, noting that Omaha has had a similar ban for 50 years.
"In a city of a quarter of a million people, there are probably ample people to run for council who don't have contracts with the city," said Patte Newman, a former city councilwoman.
None of the current council members has any city contracts. One council candidate does: Mark Whitehead.
He's president of Whitehead Oil, which just won a four-year contract to provide fuel for the city and Lancaster County.
If the measure is put on the ballot and were approved, the ban would take effect June 7, after those elected in May have taken office.
It wouldn't affect Whitehead immediately if he were to win.
Groups supporting the proposal include Common Cause Nebraska, the League of Women Voters of Lincoln and Lancaster County, Lancaster County Nebraskans for Civic Reform and Nebraska Appleseed.
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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