- Associated Press - Sunday, April 18, 2021

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita city leaders are considering overhauling their ethics code and for the first time setting a limit on gifts to city council members.

The proposed rules drafted over the past year would ban gifts worth more than $150 a year, establish an anonymous hotline for reporting ethics violations and set up an appointed commission to review complaints. Violating the new ethics code could result in a fine between $100 and $1,000, according to The Wichita Eagle.

The City Council will decide later this spring whether to adopt the new rules, which are set to be reviewed at an April 27 meeting.

Mayor Brandon Whipple has pushed for the reforms after ethical breaches led to several local officials leaving office in recent years and raised questions about the city’s bidding process.

“People are going to be suspicious of everything we do until we pass an ethics policy that has real teeth,” Whipple said.

Last year, a city councilman, a Sedgwick County commissioner and a state representative all left office after it became public that they were behind a 2019 ad published on YouTube falsely suggested that Whipple was accused of sexual harassment when he served in the Kansas Legislature.

In 2019, former Mayor Jeff Longwell steered a $500 million water plant contract to construction executives who paid for his golf outings and meals while the project was being bid. Longwell said the contractors were just friends. City attorney Jennifer Magana declined to make a public ruling on Longwell’s actions, and the council at the time declined to censure him under the city’s existing ethics code.

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