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Code of Ethics Violators Face Unclear Consequences

6:05 PM, Sep 25, 2013   |    comments
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GREENSBORO, N.C. - State law requires every city council to adopt a code of ethics. In addition, every elected official must take a state ethics training course after they are elected or re-elected.

However, there are no clear consequences for elected officials who break the code or don't take the course.

The UNC School of Government says, "The law does not impose formal sanctions in place for elected officials who do not comply with the ethics training requirement. However, officials should remember the informal sanction of citizen and media opinion."

High Point University Political Science Instructor Ellen Galantucci said, "It makes it hard to get much done if you don't have the public on your side. Certainly, it will make it difficult to win a future election or to ever hold any representative office."

WFMY News 2 started looking into this after some High Point city council members suggested Mayor Bernita Sims should resign.

Mayor Sims' unpaid utility bill raised eyebrows earlier this year. She has now paid it. The SBI also investigated her for writing a bad check to a family member. Sims told WFMY News 2 she resolved this issue, but the Attorney General's Office is still investigating. The High Point Enterprise reports she owes more than $5,500 in overdue state income taxes.

The city of High Point's Code of Ethics says, "Elected officials should be in good standing with all personal and professional obligations." Mayor Sims said she did not have any comments about this.

Even if the council found Mayor Sims violated the code of the ethics, there are no clear consequences outlined in the code or the state law.

Mayor Sims and every High Point Council Member, except Jeff Golden, have taken the state ethics training course. Golden told us he will take that required course soon.

High Point's Code of Ethics
Winston-Salem's Code of Ethics
Greensboro's Code of Ethics

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