NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Council veto necessary for future dealings

Mayor Tom Henry. (News-Sentinel file photo)

City Council overrode Mayor Tom Henry’s veto of a pay-to-play ordinance Tuesday by a 6-3 vote, just the number of votes needed to pass. Proponents passed the bill to eliminate the appearance of impropriety in city government’s awarding of contracts.

As tax-paying citizens, we should not tolerate the city giving business to bidders because they have made the biggest political contributions to those in power.

Two-thirds of City Council, six votes, are required to approve the override of a veto. In a vote identical to a Nov. 21 preliminary vote on the proposal, Jason Arp, R-4th, and John Crawford, R-at large, who introduced the bill, were joined by Councilmen Russ Jehl, R-2nd, Tom Didier, R-3rd, Paul Ensley, R-4th, and Tom Freistroffer, R-4th, in the veto override. Those who voted against were Councilmen Michael Barranda, R-at large, Glynn Hines, D-6th, and Geoff Paddock, D-5th.

The bill limits campaign contributions of firms doing business with the city to $2,000 per candidate per year. Donations from any employee (or their spouse or live-in children) who owns more than 7.5 percent of a firm would count toward that limit, and any firm exceeding that limit would be barred from bidding on city contracts.

Mayor Henry and Barranda hoped to modify the bill before Tuesday’s vote. Henry wanted to return the bill to the council for further review in order to avoid possible legal challenges.

Barranda tried to introduce a supplemental bill Tuesday that would replace the proposed dollar limit with a requirement that any annual contribution in excess of that $2,000 amount be disclosed in writing prior to the awarding of any contract.

Council did not assent to either Henry’s offer or Barranda’s supplemental bill proposal.

Mayoral spokesman John Perlich reflected Henry’s disappointment in Council’s override of the mayor’s veto, adding, “We continue to have concerns about the constitutionality of this ordinance. We also believe it violates state law and doesn’t protect First Amendment rights.”

“We are trying to do what is right to avoid the appearance of impropriety,” Crawford said of the bill. “It will help restore more of citizens’ faith in city government.”

And in a day when the perceptions of impropriety come back to haunt officials and others in many ways, this bill should have a positive effect on the city’s business dealings.