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Richmond's Ethics Reform Task Force Releases Its Final Report

Craig Carper/WCVE News

Two years after its formation, Richmond’s Ethics Reform Task Force presented its final report to City Council on Monday.

The 11-member task force was created in 2017 following conflict of interest issues under former Mayor Dwight Jones. In 2016, Richmond's city auditor found that Department of Public Works Director Emmanuel Adediran was doing work for First Baptist Church of South Richmond while on the clock. Jones was the senior pastor of that church.

The 39-page report released Monday makes five recommendations on increasing ethical behavior and accountability in local government:

1) Employees are to disclose personal agreements or relationships with vendors.

2) Employees are to disclose private associations with employees/candidates.

3) Amend Richmond City Code of Ordinances to prohibit lobbying after employment.

4) The City should create a comprehensive ethics handbook, website, and uniform code of ethics for all city personnel.

5) The City should conduct ethics training annually.

Albertina Walker, chairman of the Ethics Reform Taskforce, told Richmond City Council that the report recommendations were devised through meetings with the city's commonwealth attorney and looking at how other cities handle ethics.

Walker said the most important recommendation is the creation of guidelines for ethical conduct.

“We believe that ethics has to be a core value, and it has to start at the top and permeate throughout the organization," she said.

The ethics task force also surveyed more than 600 city employees about the role of ethics in their everyday work. According to the report, 81 percent of those surveyed said ethics is a core value in the City of Richmond and approximately 70 percent said they felt safe to speak up about unethical behavior in their department.

Walker asked that the task force be allowed to continue its work through the end of the year in order to monitor how the recommendations are implemented. Almost all the recommendations can be acted on immediately, but the prohibition on lobbying will have to wait. During this year's General Assembly session, Richmond was added to a list of cities that have the authority to ban former city employees from lobbying their former employer for one year after they leave. That change will take effect on July 1.