UPDATE: This story has been corrected to reflect that the preliminary hearing was scheduled for Monday night.
Denton City Council member-elect Jesse Davis faces a second ethics complaint in his role drafting an advisory opinion over the May 4 election — the opinion that said two council members couldn’t vote on campus polling locations because of their employment ties to the University of North Texas.
This time, a District 3 resident, Skylar Lange, filed the complaint. The complaint documents were executed on April 15 and obtained late last week by the Denton Record-Chronicle. A three-member panel of the ethics board is scheduled to take up the complaint Monday evening.
Council member Paul Meltzer filed a similar complaint against Davis in late February. He complained that Davis should have recused himself from advising him and fellow council member Deb Armintor on election matters. (Meltzer’s wife and Armintor work at UNT.) Davis was the ethics board chairman at the time the advisory opinion was created and had just announced his own Denton City Council candidacy.
A three-member panel of the ethics board found Meltzer’s complaint against Davis baseless. However, in the interim, the ethics board had already sent a letter to the City Council saying the conflict-of-interest definition needed to be fixed following the troubles it encountered with previous complaints and that advisory opinion.
Lange’s complaint asks the board to review Davis’ action again but using a different part of the ethics code than Meltzer’s complaint. Lange claims Davis had a unique position drafting the opinion for Meltzer and Armintor, given his direct interest as a candidate and the potential votes cast, that was different from the position the incumbent council members had in voting on polling locations.
Because the complaint touches an issue that’s already been reviewed, it’s possible it could be deemed frivolous.
In an interview Monday afternoon, Davis said he agreed that the second complaint looked like a repackaged version of the first one. But he said he hadn’t decided whether to ask that it be found frivolous.
In drafting the new rules, the City Council provided for sanctions for frivolous complaints, but such findings and sanctions must be considered by the full board.
“I’m leaning towards not [asking the board],” Davis said, citing the end of election season.
Lange’s complaint signals another problem with the city’s new ethics ordinance: the perception that the board is able to conduct full reviews since individual board members are appointed by council members and require frequent recusals.
For example, Armintor eventually voted on the UNT polling locations, triggering an ethics complaint against her. No appointee of hers could review the complaint. In addition, another ethics board member made the complaint. That left just four board members — the minimum required for a quorum — to review and rule on the complaint.
(The four-member board found her in violation but refused to sanction her. A similar complaint against Meltzer has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.)
Davis said he has heard people bandy about ideas that perhaps the Denton Bar Association, the Denton Chamber of Commerce and other community groups could appoint the ethics board, but he’s not sure they want the job.
He also said he was resigning his post Monday as chairman of the Board of Ethics, effective immediately.