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Our View: Keeping tabs

City examines ethics, police conduct through boards

Elle Carpenter-Hockett, the entrepreneur behind Durango Aerial Arts and Acrobatics, recently said she believes that Cynthia Johnson, a city of Durango employee, has unfairly used her familiarity with DAAA to begin creating her own, lower-cost alternative circus school.

An April 24 Durango Herald article, based in part on a records request, detailed the conflict.

What is needed? Time in front of the city's Board of Ethics, created in 2014 for just such an eventuality.

The five-member board's purpose is to improve the public trust in city government by examining such situations and issuing advisories. Complaints about city employees' ethical behavior go to the board, and employees and council members who want to avoid any conflicts of interest (or the appearances thereof) can seek an opinion from the board before engaging in circumstances they fear might be problematic.

Did Johnson, who is a part-time gymnastics coach for the city, unfairly use information held by her private employer? Did her position as a city employee provide some benefit in her endeavor?

We don’t pretend to have the answers. These are the kinds of questions the city’s Board of Ethics can consider.

A city employee told the Herald that the city’s human resources department was investigating. Hopefully, the city will take advantage of its ethics board as well.

On a similar but unrelated topic, the Citizens Complaint Review Panel for the city's police department has issued its annual report for 2020, which contained 16 complaints of police conduct. One was upheld, resulting in disciplinary action of required training and a written warning. It involved a procedural policy during a traffic stop.

In 2019 there were 15 complaints; two were upheld.

Police Chief Bob Brammer's belief in the importance of a citizens’ review panel is critical, and from all appearances, he is a strong advocate. In the Herald's April 16 story, Brammer said that it is not every police department that is as transparent as it should be. He wants Durango to practice that transparency.

Should the review panel report the results of possible violations on a more timely basis than yearly? Probably. And provide plenty of details? Probably.

But we are pleased that the community panel is in place and is working collaboratively with the police chief. That is good law enforcement.