Ethics commission: Reno councilman failed to disclose conflict before union contract vote

24 March 2023

The Nevada Commission on Ethics has determined that Reno City Councilman Devon Reese violated state ethics requirements after he failed to disclose business relationships with two bargaining groups that were in contract negotiations with the city council.

On March 15, the commission found that Reese failed to abstain from voting on city council matters involving the Reno Professional Administrative Group and the Reno Protective Police Association, which were represented by Hutchison & Steffen — a law firm that employs Reese,  an attorney. Reese voted in favor of the union groups during their contract negotiations with the city. 

As a result, the commission directed Reese to attend ethics training, develop a disclosure and abstention check process that complies with state law and submit minutes from all city council meetings involving Hutchison & Steffen to the ethics commission for the next year. 

If Reese is found to violate state ethics laws again within the next two years, the ethics commission may investigate and seek further action.

The ethics commission began investigating Reese after the commission received a complaint from a member of the public on Sept. 12, 2022, alleging five ethics violations. Reese was only found guilty of two of the five violations mentioned. 

The state’s ethics commission is an executive branch agency responsible for investigating and adjudicating public complaints involving the ethical conduct of government employees, which can result in disciplinary action or fines. It also publishes opinions or advisories on ethics issues, in addition to providing general education and outreach to public officials. 

It has jurisdiction over public officers and employees of the state and local governments, such as county commissions and school boards.

In a text message to The Nevada Independent, Reese said that he appreciates the work of the commission to define the gray area of ethics within law. Though Reese said he needed to wait to give full comment until the commission publishes the deferral agreement for the case, he did say in a preliminary statement that when the contract negotiations were being discussed by the city council, he asked the city attorney’s office if he needed to abstain from voting on matters regarding the police contract because of a potential conflict with his employer.

According to Reese, the city attorney’s office told him he needed to do neither. However, Reese said that it was important for him to maintain transparency, so he decided to disclose the business relationship to the city manager, human resources and the public on record. 

“It is my belief and understanding that the ethics [commission] agrees with me, and is also saying that I should continue to be vigilant, and develop a clear plan for addressing this in the future, as opposed to continuing to one-off ask the city attorney’s office in each instance,” Reese said. “I believe this opinion is saying that I did handle the matter properly, despite how the legalese of it may be read by some looking to make an issue of it.”

The post Ethics commission: Reno councilman failed to disclose conflict before union contract vote appeared first on The Nevada Independent.

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