Shelby Commissioners: Code Of Ethics Needs Clarity

(Memphis) Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland is appealing a decision that cleared fellow Commissioner Sydney Chism of all ethics violations.

Commissioners changed the code of ethics a few years ago, and now they claim the new rules leave too much gray area and it’s costing tax payers and leading to appeals like this one.

Shelby County’s Code of Ethics specifically says a commissioner cannot vote on an item that they will financially benefit from without disclosing it before the vote.

But that rule has only been around for a few years.

It used to require commissioners to disclose any conflict of interest where they may indirectly benefit from the vote which is the same as state law.

“The rules may need to be looked at so they are made more clear,” said Commissioner Heidi Shafer.

Commissioner Shafer claims taking out that indirect benefit aspect of the code of ethics leave too much room for bad judgment, and the purpose is to keep everything out in the open not keep commissioners from voting.

“I think we should go back and make sure it’s as clear as possible, because the reason we passed those is so the public has faith in what we’re doing,” said Shafer.

Thursday an ethics panel determined Commissioner Sydney Chism didn’t benefit from head start funds he approved for his daycare because that money went to children and not him.

“The system is somewhat broken,” said Chism.

Chism maintains his case was never about ethics, but a personal attack against him by fellow commissioner Terry Roland, a trend that could possibly continue among commissioners under the current code.

He claims the lawsuit has already cost him more than $60,000 personally, and could cost him more depending on an appeal.

“I want my money. I want my money. I mean I’ve spent $60,000 on the process falsely accused without anyone looking into the facts,” said Chism.

To prevent this commissioners are recommended to disclose any connection they may have to an item before voting on it to be on the safe side

Terry Roland says he wants to appeal that Chism decision to the state since Tennessee’s code and Shelby County’s code aren’t the same.

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