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Henderson City Council to vote on rules for members’ behavior

Henderson City Council members are expected to vote at their Tuesday meeting on a governance policy that would lay out the rules and practices for working on the council.

City Clerk Jose Luis Valdez said city staffers wrote the policy partly in response to the new ward-based system to elect council members.

“A year and a half ago the voters overwhelmingly approved ward-based voting,” Valdez said.

The policy, he said, would establish “team norms” designed to ensure a council elected by citizens within each ward focuses on the overall good of the city, and does not devolve into fighting over whose ward gets the most resources.

“It’s not going to modify anything that we’re currently doing; what it is going to do is basically memorialize what we have done,” Valdez said. “It’s going to provide that guidance in written form so that everybody knows what their role is.”

While Valdez said it won’t change any city operations, the policy sets rules and clear boundaries on what the city’s elected officials are allowed to do related to those operations.

It explains that the elected officials are responsible for setting the policy that governs the city while its staff handles implementing that policy, saying the council should “focus on the ‘what’ (for city policy and practices) and trust staff to implement the ‘how.’”

The policy also notes that the council needs to hold its members, the city and the city manager, city clerk and city attorney accountable. It does not explain how the council can hold the staffers to account.

If a council member doesn’t follow the policy guidelines, it would be up to the other council members to hold that member accountable.

The policy outlines a process for handling policy violations, with the first step calling for another council member to talk privately with the violating council member. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, another meeting would be held and mediated by the city manager.

If the issue isn’t fixed, the city manager would hire an outside consultant or coach to “help facilitate restoration of trust and communication if our relationship with that colleague creates a challenging or uncomfortable environment for the council and the staff.”

Finally, the city could take legal action if council members still feel the issue has not improved.

The governance policy also covers rules for interacting with the media: “Whenever possible, the mayor should be the official spokesperson for the city unless the mayor or the council endorse someone else.”

Council members must consult with the office of public information before speaking publicly about the stance of the city, according to the policy. And any time a council member is giving an opinion that does not align with the city, that member must make sure to say their opinions do not reflect those of the city of Henderson.

Council members also must keep information from briefings or closed sessions deemed “privileged or confidential” secret from the public and media, while also somehow “exercising transparency.”

The policy also establishes rules of conduct when council members interact with one another, as well as how they can appear in public, respond to complaints from residents and create items for upcoming agendas, among other things.

The council meeting will take place at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Henderson City Hall.

Contact Mark Credico at mcredico@reviewjournal.com. Follow @writermark2 on Instagram.

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