Through a series of training sessions, Kyle city staff wants to educate elected and appointed officials from the regional about lawful and ethical service.
Every fifth Tuesday, the city of Kyle is planning to hold a Speaker Series session at Kyle City Hall, which is open to elected and appointed officials operating in Hays County and surrounding areas. This voluntary training session serves to educate, inform and challenge local leaders to be ethical and just in their actions.
Kyle City Council Member Rick Koch and Kyle Director of Planning Howard Koontz developed the idea together in late 2018, when Koch challenged Koontz to make it a reality.
“He told me to be the change I wished to see,” Koontz said. “The goal was to give current and incoming citizen volunteers the information they need to serve well.”
The first installment of the series was held Jan. 29 and was led by speaker Anne Cooke Bagley, a certified professional planner for three decades. Bagley focused her discussion on the American Planning Association’s (AICP) code of ethics in regard to municipal planning.
“Ann (spoke) about planning situations and challenges where the ethical choice is not obvious,” Kyle city staff said in a statement. “These are situations where understanding the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, along with state and local ethics requirements, can be the deciding influence.”
Attendance at these meetings is completely voluntary, but attendees can receive AICP credits for their presence and participation. Member of Kyle’s Planning and Zoning Committee and City Council were in attendance along with nearly a dozen leaders from surrounding municipalities.
“The first event went as expected and I think it went well,” Koontz said. “But, of course, it would have been great to see a higher attendance.”
At the meeting, leaders were divided into groups and presented various hypothetical scenarios where ethical violations were occurring. Bagley led the groups through their scenarios using AICP guidelines.
A total of 11 ethics violation cases occurred in Texas municipalities in 2017, as reported to and investigated by the AICP. Bagley said many of these cases involved conflicts of interest.
“Conflicts of interest are the biggest problem that planners, planning and zoning commissioners and elected officials can have,” Bagley said.
Texas had 11 of the 25 total conflict of interest cases in the southern region of the United States.
The only state to report more cases than Texas was California.
Koontz said the next meeting is planned for April and will likely be led by Kyle’s city attorney.
Ethics and legal affairs are Koontz’ top priority, but other subjects relevant to city officials will be covered in the future. In the meantime, Koontz continues to advertise the sessions with hopes of attracting more people.