Code of conduct approved for Apache Junction council, boards, commissions

A view of Apache Junction City Councilwoman Gail Evans and Vice Mayor Chip Wilson at a recent meeting. (Arianna Grainey, Independent Newsmedia)

The Apache Junction City Council on March 5 approved a code of conduct applicable to the council, board and commission members that removed draft language on meeting distractions including not rolling one’s eyes when reacting to an opinion.

A draft code of conduct had stated “Members should not roll their eyes, shake their head or otherwise indicate their opinion on a matter or in reaction to a speaker or comments from another member or through other non-verbal means, as such conduct is viewable by the audience and on the live-stream.”

It and other language was replaced with “Members should be aware that nonverbal body language is viewable by the audience and may indicate their opinion or be in reaction to comments from another member or speaker.”

Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy and Councilwoman Christa Rizzi at a recent council meeting. (Arianna Grainey, Independent Newsmedia)

Councilwoman Christa Rizzi at a work session March 4 asked that the item be changed so it was not as specific.

“Members shall not roll their eyes? I don’t think we need to specify anything because, you know, there’s times when… you know, we’re all human and we do have emotions, as much as we try to sit and listen and not respond with any emotion, but (when) I listen to staff I nod all the time. I wiggle in my chair. I move around, So I don’t know that we need … to be so specific,” she said at the work session.

The council on Jan. 15 directed city staff members to prepare the code of conduct document and on March 5 voted unanimously to approve it.

The code of conduct document is a guideline, City Attorney Joel Stern said at the council’s March 4 work session.

“It’s meant to be a commonsense approach for how you conduct yourselves and including board and commission members,” he said.

Ms. Rizzi at the March 4 work session asked that a section on cellphone use be simplified.

“Electronic devices at meetings may be used to conduct business at hand” replaced the draft language, “Members may, at meetings, operate a cellphone or other personal device as long as the city business at hand is not interrupted and the appearance of non-attendance and open meeting law violations is avoided.”

“It shouldn’t matter if we use a cellphone,” Ms. Rizzi said at the work session.

“People use different devices. People are using their cellphones for everything now — e-mail and everything. I’m using my cellphone right now to look at my notes,” she said.

Mayor Jeff Serdy at the March 4 work session said he preferred that section 10, titled communication with litigants, be removed.

It states, “Members should use caution while communicating with litigants or their representatives during any pending lawsuits against the city. However, social graces such as waving or exchanging pleasantries may be extended.”

“On No. 10, instead of trying to tweak it, I think the whole thing should just be struck. Just strike that whole paragraph,” Mr. Serdy said.

“There’s been several situations, there’s going to be a lot more in the future, and we’re going to be hamstringing future councils if we’re not allowed to communicate with citizens and residents,” he said.

Councilwoman Robin Barker at a meeting in 2018. (Arianna Grainey, Independent Newsmedia

“The verbiage there simply says ‘use caution.’ It doesn’t prohibit anything,” Councilwoman Robin Barker said.

“It doesn’t do anything but say use caution, be reasonable, logical, rational when you talk to folks who might be involved in lawsuits with the city and I think that’s a good thing to have there,” she said.

Mr. Serdy said later that he agreed with Ms. Barker, to leave the section on communication with litigants.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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