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New ZMD Ethics Code Torn Between Two Approaches

The ethics committee meeting on Oct. 15.
Willis ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The Zoo Museum District Ethics Committee remains stretched between two poles. Board member Charles Valier continues to call for an annual disclosure of board member assets while board member Tom Campbell says this disclosure would be an undue burden on ZMD leaders.

The committee will recommend that board members, their spouses and children, or companies board members are affiliated with will not be able to contract work with the ZMD. The same rules would apply to sub-districts. Valier believes board members should annually disclose all assets in which they hold a 10 percent interest.

“At the end of the day we’re no better off than we were,” said Valier regarding the proposed revised code of ethics. Valier said annual disclosures could pre-empt conflicts of interest before they arrive and is concerned the current proposed language relies too heavily on board members self-reporting potential conflicts. The board decided to review and revise this original code after ex board member Pat Whitaker resigned in April amid conflict of interest allegations.

Campbell said Valier’s call for an annual disclosure of property and business interests could scare away possible board members in the future.

“It’s government intrusion on private matters,” said Campbell during the meeting.

Neither board member backed down.

“Public support for people like us comes when there’s transparency. And when there isn’t transparency, there’s distrust,” said Valier.

Campbell continued voicing his concern that the board would be instituting inappropriate government overreach. “Meaningful transparency should be balanced with the generation of excessive paperwork and intrusion on the private lives of individuals,” said Campbell.

After some tweaks the committee’s proposed draft will be presented at the ZMD full board meeting Oct. 29. The full board will be presented with both the final code of ethics language and Valier’s proposal for a preemptive annual disclosure.

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