Ethics Statements from Candidates in the 2011 Election

The Ogden Ethics Project invited each candidate in the 2011 municipal election to submit an ethics position statement, to be posted on our web site. Here is how we described it to the candidates:

We invite you to send us a position statement or essay, of any length, outlining your views on ethics in government and describing the ethics policies that you would actively promote if elected. We especially hope that you will endorse the specific ethics policies enumerated in the platform that is posted on our web site.

These invitations were mailed on July 5 to all candidates who had filed by that date, and to the remaining candidates within two days after they filed (and no later than July 16). In fairness to all candidates, we gave a deadline of August 1 for submitting position statements, promising not to post any of the statements until after that date. Along with the invitation, we also included our Voluntary Campaign Contribution Limitations checklist, and some candidates chose to respond to that in their statements.

Out of the 17 candidates for mayor and city council, nine submitted position statements. These are reproduced below in full.

Candidates for Mayor

Jason Goddard

In response to the questionnaire, I would like to simply state that I plan to run an honest and straight forward campaign. I will abide with the laws set forth by the State of Utah and Ogden City.

There are numerous ways that Ogden City citizens and business choose to take part in the political process; sometimes that is with commitments of time and sometimes that includes financial support. As long as their contributions are according to the current laws, I have no concern or reason to deny those individuals the opportunity to voice their political desires.

Brandon Stephenson

My personal committment to all citizens and to myself regarding ethics is simple and pricipled, I will obey the spirit of the law and when a gray area appears either because there is no law or the law does not address an issue adequately, I will always make the choice that I believe is the most honest and open.

Recently, a local group that calls themselves the Ogden Ethics Project sent a checklist to each candidate running for Ogden City Mayor and City Council and asked them to voluntary limit their campaign fundraising efforts. Although most of the ideas on the list were reasonable and basically included in current fundraising laws, there was one idea that is nothing more than anti-business sentiment and suggests it is somehow unethical to receive campaign donations from business entities, unions or other organizations.

The assertion that businesses giving campaign donation is unethical is completely ridiculous! I dislike the premise that somehow businesses are a problem in local campaigns. They are not. I dislike very much the premise that money freely given by a business to a campaign, because they support the business friendly ideas of a specific candidate, is somehow unethical. Suggesting that it is unethical to receive a campaign donation from a business entity is in itself an anti-business sentiment that insinuates that businesses cannot be trusted and that we would all be better off if they were not involved. This thinking is flawed.

In fact, this type of thinking is at the core of Ogden's past economic difficulty…of not being able to attract business to our community. This sort of mentality, that business is somehow the problem, and that we have to keep our eye on them or they will take us for all they can . . . is the problem.

Businesses are the life blood of any healthy and vibrant community. Businesses bring jobs, which sustain our population. Businesses bring activity and interest into our community. Businesses balance our service and tax levels with the taxes they pay, invest in the arts and entertainment and invest in our neighborhoods and schools. We must be actively creating an atmosphere in Ogden where businesses can thrive, make money and be successful. This mentality will fuel prosperity for our city as we move into the future.

Although it may be true that there are those that would use their monetary influence to fund the entire campaign of a candidate, this applies to both businesses and individuals. So, by choosing to say that we can get rid of unethical behavior by prohibiting business from participating in the local election process is like throwing the baby out with the bath water, which in my opinion, completely disenfranchises businesses and takes away any voice that they may have in our election process.

A more realistic solution to the problem is to place a cap on allowable donations from any entity or individual and then allow all contributors to work within those boundaries. In fact, last year the Ogden City Council, looking at this very idea, voted to set a maximum campaign donation amount for both the Mayoral and City Council races. Therefore, current campaign finance ordinances eliminate the concern that any business or individual might single handedly fund the campaign of a candidate.

So, do we disenfranchise businesses completely by implying they are the problem and that all political donations made by business are unethical or do we encourage them to participate and send a clear signal through their donations which ideas support their needs in growing business and bring community success? I think the choice for Ogden is obvious.

John H. Thompson

Ethics - the act of doing the right thing no matter who's looking or if no one is looking. This is the definition one of my parents, I'd bet it was my Dad, gave me in junior high. This wold be the position I'd implement in a Thompson administration (that has a nice ring to it).

I'm not clear if your ethics project deas with al elected fficers, offials, and/or all employees (f/t, p/t, & volunteer). My position here, over th eexecutive departments, would be - Do the right thing. As an employee of the City of Ogden, all employees are representatives of the city - of the mayor, the executive, and the residents of Ogden. [A lot of this comes from my Marine Corps background. If two Marines are together, one is in charge, in or out of uniform, and you're a representative of your unit, command, the Corps, and the country and its people you serve.] The higher up the chain, the higher the standard one should be expected to meet.

If you are performing your duties (doing your job, fulfilling your responsibilities) it should be a habit of is it legal? Am I following set procedures? WillI be in compliance with city ordinances, mayoral policy, and state statutes? The answer should always be Yes.

Ethics, like my Dad also said, is like integrity. Its something you either have or you don't. It isn't something that's turned off or on, situational dependent. If you loose either, its down the toilet, most likely never retrieved again. Ethics - doing the right thing, always.

As to your ethics platform, I can't say I can endorse it. Some things I disagree with. Another thing is I believe its too long, too involved. It's a good platform but as mayor I'm not sure I would openly endorse/support it. I will provide some general comments to my position of the 4 parts based on what's written.

a. Conflicts of Interest. Who defines most? Should be "any" gifts; don't quite understand this "solicit" part; all ownership is too board and I believe a little too intrusive; its not my duty to tell the city council what to establish; would need more background on this conflict of interest phrase; what's the job of the city attorney's?; and why are salaried employees singled out?

b. Treat Everyone Fairly. This is a good saying but I am not at all familiar with the laws and policies currently in place nor how often do these bids go out for the city; I don't know how requests are proposed; not clear on what "taxpayer funded communications" refer to; and the council has oversight over the mayor, not the reverse.

c. Campaigns. I don't have a problem with these items. I have already stated what my reform would be. I don't know from where, and to what degree, a city can make its own campaign funding laws (free speech, etc). From the information in the city book for candidates, I would guess most, if not all, of these rules are included. (I did not make a line by line comparison.)

d. Transparency. This part I probably could support the most. But again, I don't know what laws are applicable here that would have to change. I think I understand all 5 items and: support 1 & 2; not clear on 3; if GRAMA is a state law, why can't they be appealed to the SRC (I'm doing one right now); and I really think 5 is a good idea.

I hope this is close to what you're looking for even if I don't support your platform as written. I do support your efforts and wish you the best and continued sucess in being involved in city affairs, in trying to make Ogden better. I hope those goals we both agree on.

Susan Van Hooser

I was very excited to see this issue brought forward. The Ogden Ethics Projects brings the need for openness and transparency to the forefront of local politics. We will all be better off for taking campaign financing seriously. I have not signed on to all of the contribution limits asked for by this project but I understand the desire to have a clean and ethical campaign. I will answer each of the proposed limitations in this essay and again express my gratitude for those who had the courage to bring this issue forward.

The first requested voluntarily limitation was as follows: "My campaign will not accept contributions from corporations, business entities, unions, or other organizations, with the exceptions of Utah Political Action Committees that are in compliance with all regulations and disclosures." I understand the need to ensure that our campaigns be above board and avoid the appearance that any campaign or candidate is "for sale." Since the Supreme Court ruling last year on corporate contributions, many have thought corporations will exert undue influence on our political process. The limit for contributions for a campaign in Ogden City is 5000.00. I will not accept any combination of contributions that exceeds these limits. For this reason I have agreed to not "knowingly accept contributions that are made indirectly through third parties, for the purpose of circumventing contribution limits." The challenge with this particular request is that most of the business in Ogden is small business run by locals. Many of these small business leaders will want to contribute to any number of campaigns and choose to do so through their business and not through their personal accounts. It would be a disservice to these small business people to deny them an opportunity to participate in our great political process because we refuse to let them do so through their companies. I will however agree that all of these business contributions will be posted in my regular reports, no matter the size of the contribution. The best way to ally the concern of those running the project is have complete transparency in my campaign.

I have agreed to abide by the second and third self limiting principles of the Project.

The fourth request is to "not encourage anyone to make independent expenditures, bypassing my campaign treasury, on my behalf or in opposition to any of my opponents." I agree with this ideal, but I cannot accept it blanketly. There are those that may wish to offer their homes and provide refreshments for a cottage meeting or to provide other "in kind" contributions to host events or print some of our literature. I must allow my campaign to coordinate these efforts in order to ensure they are appropriate. I will not however, allow my campaign to coordinate any effort that bypasses my campaign treasury to smear another candidate or to avoid the campaign limits as set forth by local or state law. I do not want any of the actions of my campaign to be perceived as violating this principle.

The last item on the checklist is to require any individual who contributes 250.00 or more to list their employer in addition to the requirement for reporting as set forth by code or statute. This request may have issues with our federal Bill of Rights. There are strict privacy laws in place, to protect those contributing. There is also the need to ensure the public has access to good information on those that may be in support or trying to influence your elected leaders. Current campaign finance law attempts to balance these competing interests. I understand that this is meant to ensure there is transparency and that no company or individual is using surrogates to bypass campaign finance limits. I have already agreed not to work with anyone knowingly participating in this practice. My campaign committee and staff have my complete confidence. Should they see any such irregularity we will return these funds and explain why, to our volunteers and the public. I will not however, subject those who wish to give between 250 and the max to further public scrutiny without cause. This may well serve to dampen their willingness to participate in our great political system.

While I cannot speak for others in this race, I have always agreed with the spirit of this Project. The ideals behind these guiding principles have always been part of my core. Ethics in government is critical to assure public trust in our elected leaders. We must set an example and with the help of this Project and those behind it, I believe we will elevate both the discussion and the public’s faith in our system of laws and governance.

I will also post this on my website and invite any impute and comments on this or any other issue facing our great city!

Candidates for City Council At-Large Seat C

Jacob Culliton

Governments are established by the People to protect our Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property. We do not elect representatives to run our lives, we elect representatives to protect our right to Life; we do not elect representative to determine which Liberties we may or may not exercise as they see fit, we elect representatives to protect our God given Liberties we are born with; and we do not elect representatives to regulate our Property, we elect representative to protect our Right to Property.

As your Ogden City Council member I will perform the proper role of Government which is to protect your Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property. If your city council is passing laws beyond protecting your Rights then they are outside the proper role of Government.

Now, that is not to say the People can do whatever they want with their Life, Liberty, and Property. The implication is the People can do whatever they choose so long as the choices they make do not result in the violation or endangerment of another Person's Right to Life, Liberty, and Property.

In other words, I am opposed to any regulation of Property outside the scope of protecting your neighbors Rights. Representatives have no authority to tell you how to live your life outside of protecting Peoples Rights, but don't tell them that, they think if they have the majority vote they can do as they please. Article I Section 8 of the Constitution list the 29 areas legislators are allowed to pass laws under, but most city council members don't know that, if a law does not fall under one of those 29 areas then the legislation is without jurisdiction.

I am not running for office to be your Public Official as they call themselves, I am running for office to be your Public Servant which is the true and correct term. Most candidates' campaign for office on the platform of what regulations need to be passed onto the People, my platform is how about We the People regulate and check the Government for once to make sure they are doing their job the way it is supposed to be done. I look forward to the opportunity of serving as your Ogden City representative. I thank you for your support!

Stephen D. Thompson

Local government directly affects people's day-to-day lives when they turn on their water, walk on the sidewalk, drive on the streets, send their kids to school, visit local parks and libraries, open their businesses or build a home. They deal with the city council indirectly in many of their daily actions. It is our responsibility as a government body to make decisions about who gets served and how they get served by the way we allocate the cities resources. These decisions need to be made fairly, and without regard to pressure from outside interests. We should then implement these decisions ethically and with respect to all of the citizens of Ogden.

My personal guideline for ethical behavior is a "Front Page" test - Would I be willing to defend my actions on the front page of the paper and could I do so successfully?

Amy Wicks

I am a staunch supporter of open and honest government and believe that the spirit of that should carry through the election process as well. Fair campaign practices, reasonable campaign contribution limitations and complete and transparent disclosure and reporting are the basis of my campaign.

Candidates for City Council Municipal Ward 2

Jennifer Neil

I posit this in regards to ethics in government. There should be a degree of honesty, integrity, openness, frugality, diligence, dedication, humility, confidence, competence inherent in each and every public servant elected to office. The general populace should know where each public servant stands, should be represented and given a voice by the elected servants. The citizens should not have to worry about complicity in back-door deals, closed door politics, favoritism or cronyism. There should not be a widespread view of "good old boy" politicking going on where good and faithful service should be the norm.

George Washington said in reply to an address by the House of Representatives in 1789, "I feel that my past endeavors in [your] service … are far overpaid by [your] goodness, and I fear much that my future ones may not fulfill your kind anticipation. All that I can promise is that they will be invariably directed by an honest and an ardent zeal."

Such humility and desire to do well by the people he served is something to which I aspire.

C. Jon White

On the issue of ethics in government I feel that regulation is a double edged sword. Nobody can help but notice the rampant corruption in national, and increasingly local, politics. However, one must be careful when enacting laws meant to regulate candidates and elected officials. What may look like a clever way to reduce corruption may in reality be a violation of others civil liberties.

Voluntary actions, such as the checklist put out by Ogden Ethics Project itself, should be favored over generalized laws. None the less, I would work hard to enact strict ethics reform in clear cases of influence buying, conflicts of interest, and the like. I would take into consideration proposals to limit actions on a broader scale. A combination of tough laws, vigilant watchdog groups, and informed citizens would do wonders for ethics in Ogden. So would overall reductions in the size and scope of the Ogden city government. A limited local government, which focused solely on providing essential services, would inherently limit the profitability of buying off elected officials.