Bangor City Council Chairman Ben Sprague wants to change the city’s code of ethics to allow councilors to vote on the municipal budget even if they have disclosed conflicts of interest.

The tweak would still bar councilors from deliberating in specific budget items in which they have a financial or personal stake, but it would allow them to vote on the final spending plan.

The measure acknowledges the difficulty of keeping conflicts out of a largely citizen government in a small city such as Bangor, Sprague said. Some councilors own or work at companies whose affairs are sometimes a matter of city business.

“In a close-knit community, there’s going to be crossover in the activities with which councilors are involved,” Sprague said. “This is a common sense way to prevent conflicts of interest during specific budget deliberations while still allowing councilors to participate in the overall budget.”

The proposal comes two months after Councilor Cary Weston was investigated by the city’s board of ethics for appearing to violate the city’s ethical standards when he failed to disclose a financial conflict of interest last summer.

The current language of the ethics code requires councilors to disclose any personal or financial conflicts of interest and bars them from deliberating or voting on anything related to that conflict.

The change to the code would help avoid the possibility of having too few people to vote on the budget, councilors said. However, City Solicitor Norm Heitmann, who has worked for the city since the mid-1990s, could not recall that ever happening.

“As long as a councilor discloses them during the deliberation, they should still be able to vote on the budget, as a whole,” Sprague said. Otherwise, when it came time to vote, “You wouldn’t have a quorum,” he said.

Council members Dan Tremble and Gibran Graham agreed with the proposal.

“It’s to avoid the budget being divided into a bunch of different pieces,” Tremble said.

The investigation into Weston centered on his failure to disclose his marketing firm’s ongoing financial relationship with a local tourism business that receives public money each year. The board of ethics eventually cleared him of suspicion and the council unanimously accepted the board’s conclusion.

Sprague’s proposal will be vetted by councilors at the government operations committee meeting on Monday.

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