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Brasher Says He Wanted a Tougher Bernalillo County Ethics Ordinance

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The county commissioner supported the ethics measure that passed, but only after making unsuccessful attempts to strengthen it

Bernalillo County commissioners unanimously overhauled their ethics ordinance this month with a series of new rules and a system for independent investigations.

But did they go far enough?

Commissioner Michael Brasher, for one, is disappointed that a host of amendments he proposed failed to make it into the bill. He supported the ethics measure, but only after unsuccessful attempts to toughen it.

Here’s a look at some of his ideas:

— Brasher wanted a prohibition on county commissioners being listed as a reference for county job applicants. The ethics bill already bans commissioners from using their position to influence the hiring of rank-and-file employees, but it specifically allows commissioners to be references.

Brasher called it a significant “loophole.”

Others weren’t convinced. Alan Armijo said he feared someone would put him down as a reference without telling him, putting him at risk of an ethics complaint through no fault of his own.

In any case, Armijo said he has declined to be a reference for county job seekers.

Brasher withdrew the proposed amendment.

— Brasher also pushed for an amendment that would ban elected officials or candidates from appearing in “any public funded public service announcements on any television or radio station” during the 90 days before an election. They also couldn’t appear on the GOV-TV channel, with certain exceptions.

Commissioner Michael Wiener objected. He said elected officials can’t help being on TV if they’re called for an interview or appear during a televised meeting.

Brasher said his amendment would still allow those appearances. The proposal died, however, after no one offered to second his motion.

— Brasher proposed that county officials shouldn’t, after leaving office, be able to return to county employment within a year. The goal, he said, was to prevent an official from funding a position or contract, then taking advantage of it after leaving office.

Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, however, questioned whether the ethics code was the right place for such a rule. She said the ethics code is aimed at current employees and officials, without jurisdiction on people who have left office. County attorneys said they could draft an amendment to the purchasing ordinance instead.

— Commissioners didn’t support Brasher’s push to impose new campaign-donation limits on applicants seeking an incentive called Tax Increment Development Districts. Stebbins said she agreed in principle with the amendment but didn’t support it because of concern over the exact wording.

Overall, Brasher said the ethics ordinance is an improvement, but he wanted to do more.

“I thought the amendments I had were reasonable,” he told the Journal on Thursday. “Some of them came directly from residents at the East Mountain coalition meeting. “