ICMA Censures, Bars Walker for Ethics Violations
University City's city manager is barred from future membership in the organization.
The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) has censured University City's City Manager Lehman Walker and barred him from future membership.
The decision was made by the ICMA executive board at its Feb. 25 meeting and announced via press release on Feb. 29.
According to the ICMA, the "Board found that Mr. Walker violated Tenets 2, 3, and 4 of the ICMA Code of Ethics. While working for another local government, Mr. Walker communicated with a University City council member and mayoral candidate about city business; made comments criticizing the University City manager’s performance; and did not inform the University City manager about the discussions. Mr. Walker also sent his résumé to the mayoral candidate shortly before the election. Finally, Mr. Walker failed to fulfill his ethical obligation to serve a two‐year tenure by resigning from his position after nine months to take the position as city manager in University City."
Walker announced he was leaving ICMA on Feb. 17. He cited budgetary reasons for his departure from the organization.
"The ICMA decision is a conclusive example of why I recently resigned from this voluntary organization," Walker told Patch Wednesday. "Not only is the Board’s action politically motivated, it is driven by an interpretation of a so called Code that is simply used to protect certain members. I have already confirmed my resignation from the association since there is no job requirement that I belong. This type of political activity is contrary to my personal rights. I see no future value of the association for me personally or for University City at a cost of $1,100 per year. I can understand why only one in five city managers chooses to belong to this organization."
The ICMA codes requires that members not have ongoing communications about local government matters with elected officials in another local government when there is an incumbent manager.
"At the first contact initiated by an elected official, a member should inform their colleague and then cease further communication with the elected official," the ICMA press release states. "Certainly, the member should not initiate the contact. Such ongoing communication, especially when it is unknown to the incumbent, can be disruptive to the administration of the organization and undermine the incumbent manager."
Walker came to U City in August of 2010 from Evanston, IL. He served as Evanston's director of community and economic development, according to KSDK.
Walker replaced former city manager Julie Feier. He previously had served almost 12 years as U City's director of community development before leaving in 2009 for Evanston.
The ICMA Code of Ethics recommends a city manager serving two years in order to render a professional service to a local government. The ICMA board concluded that Walker lacked sufficient justification to leave his position in Evanston early.
Mayor Shelley Welsch issued the following statement on the announcement:
"This action of the ICMA is of no concern to me, and has no impact on Mr. Walker’s ability to continue to provide his excellent management skills to the challenges facing our City. The ICMA is a volunteer membership organization; with no accrediting power; with no authority or knowledge to penalize our City Manager; which has, through this action, shown its commitment to its dues-paying members, past and present, as opposed to the residents of municipalities that its members serve. This is one more politically-motivated attempt to smear Mr. Walker, using material that has been public for a year and a half, has already been the subject of a lawsuit that has been suspended, and follows a complaint filed by local officials who have never met – or indeed ever spoken with, Mr. Walker. It’s a travesty – and I hope the people of University City realize this for what it is. I have already spent more words on it than it deserves."
ICMA Code Violations
The ICMA board, according to a press release, censured Walker for violating the following ethical standards.
- Affirm the dignity and worth of services rendered by government and maintain a constructive, creative, and practical attitude toward local government affairs and a deep sense of social responsibility as a trust public servant.
- Guideline: When members advise and respond to inquiries from elected or appointed officials of other local governments, they should inform the administrators of those communities.
- Be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships in order that the member may merit the respect and confidence of the elected officials, of other officials and employees, and of the public.
- Guideline: Members should conduct themselves as to maintain public confidence in their profession, their local government, and in their performance of the public trust.
- Guideline: Members should not seek employment for a position having an incumbent administrator who has not resigned or been officially informed that his or her services are to be terminated.
- Recognize that the chief function of local government at all times is to serve the best interests of all of the people.
- Guideline: A minimum of two years generally is considered necessary in order to render a professional service to the local government. A short tenure should be the exception rather than a recurring experience. However, under special circumstances, it may be in the best interests of the local government and the member to separate in a shorter time. Examples of such circumstances would include refusal of the appointing authority to honor commitments concerning conditions of employment, a vote of no confidence in the member, or severe personal problems. It is the responsibility of an applicant for a position to ascertain conditions of employment. Inadequately determining terms of employment prior to arrival does not justify premature termination.