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Lisbon ethics board coalescing to hold government accountable

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LISBON — The Town Council adopted a code of ethics and an ethics board last week in an attempt to increase governmental accountability.

The new board will be composed of one council member and two volunteer members of the community. The Town Council will discuss whom to appoint to the board at the June 12 meeting.

“I don’t know that there are a lot of problems with local communities but we certainly know within the federal government and state, there’s problems,” Town Supervisor James W. Armstrong said.

Mr. Armstrong said the board essentially is an attempt to give residents more of a voice in the local government.

The ethics board will serve as an advisory committee available to town employees and the Town Council and will investigate whether or not ethical violations have been committed.

“They have no police powers, but they can investigate,” Councilman Alan D. Dailey said.

The code of ethics will govern the actions of local government officials. It is an attempt to avoid potential conflicts of interest, including ensuring town employees don’t use their position to gain “unwarranted privileges.”

Part of the code states that town employees must conduct themselves in a way that “will not raise suspicion among the public that he/she is likely to be engaged in acts that are in violation of his/her trust.”

Anyone found in violation of the code of ethics could face fines, suspension or removal from office or employment.

“It will be useful if you catch someone stealing or something like that,” Mr. Dailey said. “I can’t imagine, in a town our size, someone being stupid enough to steal.”

Mr. Dailey said that while enforcement of the code may be difficult, it’s a good idea to have it on the books.

“It’s uncharted waters,” he said. “There are going to be growing pains with it. We do have to have something on the books because, if you don’t, what are you going to do if you catch someone? At least this gives us a guideline to get us through if we get in this situation.”

Furthermore, Mr. Dailey said, the mere fact that the town now has a code of ethics is a step in the right direction.

“I’m hoping for all of us that, now that we have the rules and regulations in print, it’ll be enough of a deterrent not to violate the public trust,” he said.

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