Springfield City Council members Brandon Jenson, left, Monica Horton, Abe McGull, Matthew Simpson, Mayor Ken McClure and Council members Craig Hosmer, Heather Hardinger, Callie Carroll and Derek Lee listen to a presentation during a council meeting in the community room of the police and fire departments training center on November 20, 2023. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

To read this story, please sign in with your email address and password.

You've read all your free stories this month. Subscribe now and unlock unlimited access to our stories, exclusive subscriber content, additional newsletters, invitations to special events, and more.


In April 2024, Springfield voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure revising the city’s ethics policies. Those changes are now being implemented and adopted into the Springfield City Code.

The Springfield City Council reviewed the forthcoming changes, and the City of Springfield's existing ethics policy as required under the ballot measure, at a June 11 study session.

Under the voter-approved revisions, city employees would be able to undergo a normal disciplinary process — rather than be automatically terminated as a result of a policy violation. Employees and city officials would be able to use a written advisory opinion from the city attorney, obtained prior to a potential violation, as a defense to forfeiture of office.

Additionally, the amendment requires the city to maintain a code of ethics for elected officials, appointed officers, board members and city employees. By law, the ethics code is to be reviewed at least once every two years.

In addition to reviewing their own ethical guidelines, council members were also presented a draft code of ethics for city employees, which is expected to be formally considered by the City Council on July 8, and subsequently voted on.

Revisions provide discretion in disciplining employees, legal defense for violations

The draft code of ethics for city employees contains similar provisions as the code of ethics for council members as applicable to city staff, including policies related to political activity, financial interest, disclosure of confidential information and prohibitions on gifts and favors.

Unlike the existing codes of ethics, which require council members and board members who failed to request a legal opinion to forfeit their office in the event of a violation, employees are no longer subject to automatic termination.

A provision of the draft authorizes the city manager to use some discretion, and consider the severity of the conflict or whether or not the ethics violation was intentional:

“If the city manager shall make a determination that the conduct of an employee has violated this section, the employee shall be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.”

City staff also developed language for the codes of ethics for council members and boards detailing the legal defense provided in an advisory opinion from the city attorney. The language has already been added to the city code.

The provision for the City Council’s ethics policy reads, in part:

“Such opinion, until amended or revoked, shall be binding on the city and the city attorney in any subsequent actions concerning the councilmember who sought the opinion and acted on in good faith, unless material facts were omitted or misstated in the request for the advisory opinion.”

The code of ethics for council members and boards are detailed in Section 2-60 and Section 2-161 of the Springfield City Code, respectively. While the codes of ethics for council members and boards and the draft for ethics policies for city staff differ in detail and length, City Attorney Jordan Paul said the “content, to the extent that it’s there, is the same.”

Councilmember asks for more revisions

The Springfield City council at a Tuesday lunch meeting on May 7, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Councilmember Brandon Jenson said he would like the City Council to reconsider additional revisions to ethics policies concerning city employees that didn’t make the cut when city council members agreed to the ballot issue in January, after deliberating ethics for more than a year in committee.

Jenson recalled discussions of potential revisions to allow staff members to participate in some assistance programs that they may be ineligible for under the current policies for city employees.

“We have employees who qualify as low income members of our community and are serving our community, but can't gain access to the same benefits that any other low-income community member would have access to,” Jenson said at the June 11 meeting.

Councilmember Craig Hosmer cautioned against Jenson’s proposal, citing the potential for conflict over allowing city employees — who may help make decisions regarding such programs — access to the limited resources available to the public.

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the government affairs reporter at the Hauxeda. He previously covered politics and business for the Daily Citizen. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at jmcgee@hauxeda.com or (417) 837-3663. More by Jack McGee