Trimming trees and ethics violations

Theresa Stehly wants to know what happens if a city councilor violates city ordinance.

For example, she says, what happens if a councilor got a letter from Project T.R.I.M., failed to trim his or her trees, so the city comes out and does it, charges $150, and said councilor never pays?

Stehly proposed this scenario during Thursday’s Charter Revision Commission meeting, and asked whether it would be grounds for an ethics violation.

City Attorney Dave Pfeifle told her city councilors are held to the same standards as other citizens, and failing to trim trees and not paying a fine would be similar to getting a speeding ticket or parking ticket.

"So there’s no recourse there?" Stehly asked.

"They’re treated the same as everyone else," Pfeifle said.

"Shouldn’t they be held to a higher standard being they’re an elected official?" Stehly asked. "Could I file an ethics violation against someone for breaking city ordinance?"

Pfeifle said she could, but it’s doubtful that would be grounds for an ethics violation.

Stehly continued to give scenarios, including asking what happens if a city councilor assaults someone.

Pfeifle said an assault or a felony would be different, and that yes, that may result in an ethics violation.