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Minneapolis ethics officer recommends exempting some temporary workers from mandatory seminars

Election judges, as well as stagehands and production technicians working at the Minneapolis Convention Center, could be excused from ethics education seminars that are mandatory for all other city employees.

That recommendation from the city’s ethics officer, Susan Trammell, was part of the Ethical Practices Board’s annual report presented Monday to the City Council’s Ways and Means/Budget Committee.

“Why would we exempt election judges?” asked Council Member Meg Tuthill, who said she thought the judges especially needed the training.

“The situations they encounter in their work are covered in their training,” responded Trammell, who doesn’t think it makes sense to bring them back for more education, much of it not relevant to their work as judges. Most election judges work that job only a few days a year and are required to attend extensive training seminars specific to their duties.

The Convention Center stagehands and production technicians set up and tear down audio and visual components for exhibitions. Many of these workers travel with the exhibitions and shows and may only be in Minneapolis for one production a year. The average number of hours technicians worked in Minneapolis was 43, with some working only four hours a year.

Finding the workers and scheduling them for a four-hour seminar has been difficult. Both the election judges and technicians could also be exempt from reporting outside employment. Judges, however, are required to disclose recent employment and volunteer experiences.

The changes proposed by the Ethical Practices Board must be approved by the City Council and mayor before becoming law.

Ethical inquiries in 2011 were down slightly from 2010.  There were 182 inquiries in 2011, compared with 192 in 2010. More than one-third of the inquiries were about gifts, with conflict-of-interest questions coming in second, followed by issues surrounding use of city property.

Formal ethics complaints last year showed a slight increase from 2010 — 26, compared with 24 a year ago. These complaints produced three resignations and four cases where discipline was imposed. In seven cases, the matters were resolved by coaching and remedial training.  Eight of the complaints were unsubstantiated.

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