The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

April 4, 2014

City ethics policy could avoid concern with conflict

ENID, Okla. — A gray area is arising between volunteer community service and the crafting of city policy.

Developing the framework of PEGASYS successor Enid Television Network, an advisory panel will soon issue a broad recommendation to the Enid City Commission before the new budget year starts in July.

Recently, members discussed a possible conflict of interest with industry professionals serving on the panel, which could recommend ETN require local groups to either shoot video themselves or hire a private firm.

The panel recently discussed creating and maintaining a list of TV production experts on a city-owned website.

We agree with board member Mark Keefer that members should tread carefully.

“It’s all about perspective,” Keefer said. “And when we make that recommendation, then the public looks at it and there’s two of those people on this board, it’s going to not look right. It’s going to look weird.”

Two video professionals serving on the panel are Jack Quirk of KJ Productions and Jeff Hoopingarner of Raptor Media Group.

Quirk wants to limit those who can use ETN, its equipment and personnel, namely by businesses looking for free marketing.

How about the perceived conflict of a public board Quirk serves on promoting the private industry in which he works?

“I don’t have an answer other than open it up to more than just us. Make it a statewide proposal or something like that,” Quirk said. “I assume we wouldn’t be the ones making the decision to get the job, either.”

Hoopingarner, who does high-end production, doesn’t think the city needs to get into the business of referrals.

“Most of that stuff that would air on ETN is probably not stuff I really want to do,” Hoopingarner said.

The advisory board has no voting power. The city commission, which follows its charter and state law, makes final decisions regarding the scope, operations and funding of ETN.

Meanwhile, Enid still has no municipal rules regarding potential conflicts of interest.

While finding volunteer advisory members without any affiliations can be difficult, officials must self-police their ethical decisions.

A written ethics policy would help. Crafting a city policy wouldn’t hurt to gain public trust.

Any city appointee should represent the community and not their potential self-interests.

Even if the conflict of interest merely is perceived, that’s not a good thing.

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