In one of Norie Gonzalez Garza’s first acts as Mission mayor, she requested City Attorney Gus Martinez write a code of ethics for the city’s code of ordinances. At the June 21 meeting, Mission City Council unanimously approved ordinance 5184, adopting the code of ethics for elected officials, committee and board members and city directors.
“The proposed code states that city elected officials, board and committee members must not use their positions to secure privileges, must avoid conduct that would lead to perceptions of bias or partiality and must commit to acting in the best interest of the community,” City Secretary Anna Carrillo said.
Martinez said Mission’s code is mirrored after the ethics code the city of Edinburg adopted earlier this year. The only difference is Mission’s new ordinance requires the city leaders to do yearly training, starting with the open meetings act and the open records act. As the years go on, he said the training might be more in-depth or specific. But the code is, basically, a recitation of state and federal law that elected officials must follow.
“For us over here, not that there’s any identifiable issues, but it’s prudent enough for us. We should be doing more of these kinds of proactive things or transparent things and hopefully, it will be embraced,” the attorney said. “I think it’s more of a foundation that you lay just so people understand that, ‘Hey, don’t be taking any gifts they might consider a bride or don’t start doing things that the government code spells out and elected official should not be doing.’”
During Gonzalez Garza’s 15-year tenure as a council member, before becoming mayor, she said she noticed a lack of proper training had been an issue with city leadership. But before she became a councilwoman, she served on several city committees and boards, giving her knowledge other city leaders might not have had. During her campaign, she stressed the importance of continued learning.
“Everybody brings a different thing to the table and nobody is expected really to know all facets of the city. So I think the training, it would be essential to make the decisions,” Gonzalez Garza said in an April interview. “And on the school board, you are actually mandated by [the Texas Education Agency] to have a certain number of hours annually of continuing education, which is really, really nice. Because having experienced both situations, I feel that’s something lacking with the city councils.”
Martinez said there are already two trainings planned for the open records and open meetings acts. In the coming weeks, the city council will vote to approve which instructor to hire. The training can take place via workshop or online forum, depending on the council’s decision.
“This administration is conscious of the fact that we want the public to trust them. They elected them,” the city attorney said. “I’m a lawyer, I gotta do my 15 hours a year, the same as doctors. It’s not a bad thing to constantly try to keep learning in order to better serve your community.”
Additionally, city council voted to appoint long-standing council member Ruben Plata as mayor pro tem at the June 21 meeting. The pro tem is responsible for taking over mayoral duties if the mayor is unavailable.