Member Spotlight: The City of Durango

Durango City Hall

Member Spotlight:
The City of Durango

By Mary Beth Miles, Durango assistant to the city manager

Ethics is doing the right thing when no one is looking. A group of citizens, concerned with alleged conflicts of interest by members of Durango City Council, engaged the council to initiate a process to improve public trust and restore public confidence. This resulted in the development and adoption of the City of Durango Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics for City Officials in October 2014. 

City council directed staff to establish this policy through public participation to demonstrate the value of open and transparent governance. A number of fundamental themes emerged from several public meetings: uphold the public trust, promote transparency, ensure accountability, and address not only apparent improprieties, but also public perceptions of the actions of public officials. 

Two primary concepts developed from the public discussions. An independent board of ethics should be established and appointed by the council. The board should be empowered with broad authority in the enabling ordinance that includes issuing advisory opinions to City officials regarding ethical issues, hearing inquiries and complaints, and issuing findings and recommendations regarding alleged conduct and ethics violations to city council. 

The second concept was the desire for a proactive rather than a reactive policy. Residents recognized the need for a process that allows City officials and the public to identify and resolve conduct and ethics issues prior to any official action. Citizen input through this public process became the foundation for drafting the Durango ordinance. 

The code of conduct and code of ethics provide clarity for both the public and the individuals who are covered under the policy. The standards of conduct outlined in the policy ensure that the actions of the elected and appointed officials and employees are congruent with the public’s expectations and city council’s goal to foster community trust by demonstrating open and transparent governance. 

Nearly a year after the policy development process began, the code implementation process is well under way. The City is working to embed ethics into its organizational culture by providing ongoing ethics training to elected officials, the City’s 150 board and commission members, and 310 full-time employees. Combined, these efforts help ensure that the public has confidence in the integrity of all aspects of City government and the officials who exercise discretionary power. While the code is black and white, it recognizes that public officials frequently find themselves operating in shades of gray and provides a process to encourage ethical leadership at all levels of the organization for the betterment of our community. 

For more information about the City of Durango’s code of conduct and code of ethics, visit the City's website or contact Mary Beth Miles, assistant to the city manager, at 970-375-5005.