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Wilmington City Council to consider ethics legislation

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Legislation that would reform Wilmington’s ethics code is now before City Council.

Councilman Bud Freel introduced the ordinance sponsored by Council President Hanifa Shabazz Thursday night.

It was recommended by the City’s Ethics Commission.

Proposed changes focus on increasing transparency. They include broadening financial disclosure requirements and making ethics reviews, with a few redactions, available to the public.

The changes would also require members of eight boards and commissions to submit annual disclosures like those required of elected and appointed officials. These boards include the Zoning Board of Adjustments, the City Planning Commission and the Audit Review Committee.    

“One thing that has always bothered me was that we have a financial disclosure for elected officials and appointed officials that we file every year. But then there’s also a form where you can just say that you have no conflicts,” said Councilman Freel. “I’ve always thought that that was a mistake. ”

The proposed changes to the City’s code of Conduct— re-termed the Code of Ethics in the proposed legislation— would eliminate this blanket affidavit of no conflict of interest.

They include lowering the threshold for disclosure by elected and appointed officials of certain income sources to $500, and gifts totaling  $250 from the same source over the course of one year.  

The proposed legislation also adds a real property disclosure and a for-profit and not-for-profit board service disclosure.

Councilman Freel says he’s happy Mayor Purzycki reinstated the Ethics Commission last year, and that it’s beginning to recommend change.

“We had a bigger issue than that. For several years our ethics commission wasn’t meeting,” he said. “They are meeting [now] and they went through the code carefully and they are making recommendations. … My initial reaction is I think they are all positive steps. ”

Last week,  Mayor Mike Purzycki came out in favor of the proposed changes, saying he’ll sign the legislation if it passes.

Members of the City’s Ethics Commission are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by City Council.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.