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Zoo-Museum Committee Debates Tougher Ethics Code

Images from zoo museum district entities
File photos and Wikipedia

The Zoo Museum District’s Ethics Committee met Wednesday to discuss changes to the organization’s code of ethics. Committee members Charles Valier, Ben Uchitelle and Committee Chair Tom Campbell were primarily in agreement. But Campbell and Valier differ over the level of transparency to write into the code.

“Transparency for transparency’s sake doesn’t benefit anyone” said Campbell.

The meeting is part of a push to re-evaluate the ZMD board code of ethics in the wake of previous board member Pat Whitaker’s April resignation. Whitaker resigned amid allegations of misconduct when a company in which she owned a stake won a bid with the Science Center.

For Campbell the proposed stricter language was enough. The initial language specifies that board members, their spouses and children, or companies board members are affiliated with won’t be able to contract work with the ZMD. The same rules would apply to sub-districts. Charles Valier believes board members should disclose all assets in which they hold a 10 percent interest.

“I think that would keep us out of a lot of trouble,” said Valier.

Valier believes even stricter language and further disclosures will act as a model of best behavior for the ZMD sub-districts as well. He thinks this level of disclosure would act as a reminder to board members of where their interests lie and where conflicts could arise.

“I think it protects a board member rather than creates a problem,” Valier said.

Campbell believes stricter language than what is already proposed would be an overreach. For him the proposed language already improves different sections of the code.

“We’re complying with the law and we’re tightening these far tighter than they’ve ever been,” said Campbell.

The committee will review the proposed language and intends to meet one more time at the end of the month. The members intend to discuss the issue of further disclosures at their next meeting and before the board if necessary. The committee intends to produce a revised proposal for vote at the ZMD Board meeting Dec. 11.

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