Fort Worth’s city manager’s recent trip with billionaire friends raises ethical questions

FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – A decision on the ethics of Fort Worth’s city manager traveling on a private jet with billionaire friends didn’t come from the city’s ethics commission, because Fort Worth hasn’t held a regular meeting in years.

However, one member of the last ethics board the city had said Monday had said he sees a benefit in returning to regular meetings, if only to add some guidance to a city of Fort Worth’s size.

Chris Garcia began serving on the five-person Ethics Review Commission in 2012, handling issues of potential conflicts when elected officials were married to city employees and tightening up the language of ethics policies.

He was still on the board in 2019, even though his term had expired when the council voted to change who should handle ethics issues, pulling members from the zoning, planning and adjustment boards only when there was a valid complaint or when they were asked to be called by the municipal manager or the council. Once they were done with a problem, the members would disband.

That approach may not be the most effective one Garcia has suggested when dealing with difficult ethical issues.

“Sometimes when you first meet with people on different boards, it’s a little more awkward, a little more reserved,” he said. “Sometimes you can really get into things if you have some kind of continuity from before.”

Other large cities in Texas have ethics boards with standing members, although not all of them meet regularly. A board in Dallas has met twice this year, and in Houston once. Austin has an ethics commission that meets monthly.

Regular meetings were something former City Council member Ann Zadeh suggested in 2019, as the only council member opposed to the change in handling complaints.

“I think an ethics commission could meet quarterly to discuss ethical issues throughout the community and throughout the country to bring those ideas back to our city,” she said when the council voted on the change.

Carlos Flores, who was on the council when the change was made, said he was open to having a discussion about revising the policy because the council has gained new members since then.

The Fort Worth Report reported that Councilwoman Gyna Bivens is also open to a review of all policies related to ethics.

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