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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 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 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. 

Tenet 2

  • 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.

Tenet 3

  • 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.

Tenet 4

  • 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.
George Lenard March 02, 2012 at 02:49 PM
I would sure hope Avant monitors these comments, and not just Cindy's. Not for revenge, but for awareness. It is routine business advice for businesses to do so; I see no reason a municipal government shouldn't as well. "Most businesses only monitor social media for customer reviews. By expanding the topics you listen for on social media, you can give your business new ideas, understand how to promote your business favorably against your competitors, and give your business time to adjust to competitive changes in the marketplace." http://socialmediadiyworkshop.com/2010/05/what-should-i-monitor-on-social-media/
Kim March 02, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Linda - I have never, ever heard, seen, or read anything that would suggest that anyone thinks the past was perfect. What a silly comment to make. The past was not perfect, but at this point all we can do is learn from our mistakes, move on, and try to do better. As for the "old guard" of the community and it's "small group of supporters", I can only speak for myself and my personal acquaintances but A) We are decidedly more along the lines of the "new" guard, and B) there are a lot of us.
Earl Higgins March 02, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Can't we all just get along? At the end of the day don't we all really want pretty much the same things for the future of University City? Signed, my full name is Earl Higgins, search all you want.
Sebastian Serra March 02, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I would guess we all do want the same thing..whats best for our community, we just have different opinions on how to achieve it. People are using this forum to express those opinions...and I am sure they have used other methods as well. I personally have written letters to the Mayor and several council members letting them know how I feel (using my real name). This is just one other mechanism to express those feelings...some people feel comfortable doing it with their name, while others don't. In looking at your facebook page I see a couple of disparaging references to Newt and Roy Blunt. I guess you have a negative opinion of them, similar to what some people have about Mr. Walker. Nothing wrong with that.....
Why? March 02, 2012 at 04:53 PM
No you are incorrect. I feel sorry for you and the other former employees who are publicly airing your personal grievances. It is all consuming and unhealthy. You have a new job. Do well there and let that be your revenge. I hope your family is well and will look up to you as a good example of how to handle challenges.
Kim March 02, 2012 at 04:54 PM
From the Riverfront Times: http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2012/03/lehman_walker_university_city_city_manager_censured_violates_contract.php
Lisa Hummel March 02, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I've known since I got involved with the driving range lights controversy that he has "no qualms about lying to U City residents" (or about them- namely me), but when I posted the facts surrounding his lies, he refuted them and had my comments removed from this website. His apparent hubris and lack of basic respect for citizens are a blot on our great city. Shame on Shelley Werlsch for supporting him. I would like the current candidates for city council to openly condemn his behavior and Ms. Welsch's support of the job he is doing. If they can't do that, they don't deserve our votes. We need to know what they stand for before this upcoming election.
Lisa Hummel March 02, 2012 at 05:18 PM
One person who has caught on is Paulette Carr, who is running against Jan Adams in the 2nd Ward. If you look at her careful documentation of city issues and events on U City Citizen, I think you'll see that she has been respectfully and dilligently following the shenanigans of this group at city hall, and calling them on their decisions and actions. We need her on the City Council, not another Welsch supporter.
Why? March 02, 2012 at 05:28 PM
If you look at Paulette Carr's careful documentation you see her efforts began in response to the shenanigans of the previous administration. I believe Paulette AND Jan Adams instigated the audit. Mr. Walker is responding to the demand for change.
Kim March 02, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Yes, Paulette has been a diligent watchdog under BOTH administrations. I agree with Lisa - we need Paulette on Council. (And Why? I don't belive the change people were looking for had anything to do with gross violations of professional ethics...)
Sebastian Serra March 02, 2012 at 06:24 PM
I went ahead an updated my name from consultant...so now I can beat on my chest and say I am not afraid to post to my real name! I feel like a tough guy now! For those that want to use just a first name or remain anonymous, I still totally support you.
Why? March 02, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Kim, you have NO IDEA what gross violation of ethics occurred by previous administration. No one submitted a retaliatory complaint to a professional organization as is happening here. Lawsuits, coverups, salacious interactions made City Hall a soap opera and a joke. Those people are gone and in their place are hard working people. All of the public bitterness about the past is impeding progress and real work. Is that what you and others are really trying to accomplish?
Kim March 02, 2012 at 06:36 PM
And yet, the past two administrators were never investigated, censured, and banned for life by a group of their peers and the professional organization which regulates the ethical standards of their field. SO, I guess we'll just have to take your word for it... (or you could post some hard evidence and those who would like to take the time to re-hash past administrations can do so) But, as I've said before, what happened in the past serves only at this point to provide lessons going forward. We can't go back, but we can make sure that we are vigilant now.
George Lenard March 02, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Clarification: IF anyone did as I describe (violating a non-disparagement or confidentiality clause signed in exchange for payment), it would be unethical and perhaps unlawful. The comment is by someone anonymous (U City Fan) who claims not to have signed such an agreement, and I have no reason to doubt that is true. It did seem to me to suggest this person had knowledge that others had signed such agreements and that the City was interested in knowing whether any of them were violating these agreements under cover of anonymity. I have no knowledge one way or the other--about agreements or potential violations. I'm simply saying that the City has a legitimate interest in knowing if people are violating under cover of anonymity and that people shouldn't do that -- IF they did/are. And IF they did/are violating here on Patch, then I'm speaking accurately to them.
Why? March 02, 2012 at 07:56 PM
What is puzzling is all of the anger and vigor. Most new administrations bring in new employees and cuts are expected. You know that as a long time government employee. As I understand your situation it was all budget. You were a valued employee. You left a legacy. Know that and leave this behind. Will not contact you though. I will not betray loyalty to those I know that are in the know.
Steve March 02, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Got it George, no facts all ifs. Thanks.
Lisa Hummel March 02, 2012 at 08:00 PM
"Why?" makes an interesting point about Paulette. She is obviously interested in actual good government, and not in taking sides. Having perhaps been dissatisfied with some of the things that went on before, she is not now willing to look the other way when a new administration comes in and is ineffective, unresponsive, or unethical. Looking at this string of comments, it seems that some people are so happy to have the previous administration gone that they are blind to the faults and inadequacies of the new one.
Cindy March 02, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Frankly, I'm more concerned that this administration is using taxpayer money as an incentive to sign a gag order. One it's a waste of of money, and two, aren't we supposed to have a open and transparent government. Why is the administration gagging people that leave.
Maggie Rotermund March 02, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Thank you all for expressing your opinion. It has come to my attention that some comments are being flagged by other readers and thus temporarily disappearing from the site. I have allowed appropriate comments back on the story. Please remember to keep your discussions on U City Patch civil and to the point without name calling. We are all neighbors here!
sam March 03, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Will signing in with my real name make Lehman Walkers actions more ethical. The organization which he chose to join of hown free will, kicked him out for screwing up their proud brand which he said he would live by when he joined. I know how vindictive city hall is and would never use my real name to post here, it doesn't invalidate my opinion. I don't support the mayor or her administration and the terrible job they are doing. This is from what I have experienced over the past year, I have no idea of how they operated prior to that time, nor do I have ties to any of the previous administration or prior employees. What I see now scares me, that is why I post.
George Lenard March 03, 2012 at 10:41 PM
I'm not sure what Nancy means by not "joining" this problem. The candidates all should be expected to take a clear position on this issue, and everyone writing here has good reason to press them on it. I'm not sure who has facts supporting certain candidates being "hand picked," but in any case the candidates' answers may provide an indication of their inclination to fall in line behind the Mayor and City Manager or to instead think and speak freely, exercising sound and independent judgment. The latter is what I am looking for in a councilperson.
George Lenard March 03, 2012 at 11:38 PM
The Council must respond meaningfully to the censure. It's a serious matter that should not be swept under the rug. But is it serious enough to require terminating Mr. Walker's employment? It may be helpful to consider it this way: Two of the three violations would not have occurred had there been no pre-election contact with Walker, but promptly after the election the Council had properly voted to terminate the former Manager, and then immediately contacted Mr. Walker and properly voted to hire him. The outcome would have been identical, except a few days delay in contracting with Mr. Walker. So how "bad" and "unethical" was it that the timing of pre-employment events was different than permitted but the outcome the same? People can respond that the end doesn't justify the means; the rules were broken and that's it. But viewing the issue as a matter of timing, not one of inherently "bad," "unethical," or "immoral" conduct, sheds light on the seriousness of violation--which bears on the proper action to take. The third violation was not staying in Evanston for two years. Apparently he didn't breach his contract there. But it's a clear violation of the "ethics" rule. How "bad" is this? How many of us live by such a rule in our own employment relations? How many other City Managers have breached it, without consequences from the organization? These questions should be carefully considered, with no rush to judgment. Let the punishment fit the crime.
Steve March 04, 2012 at 02:03 AM
I agree the Council should determine whether, under the terms of the contract, whether Mr. Walker should continue on. Why would the contact make reference to the ICMA and specifically the Code of Ethics if, as the Mayor now says, it has not bearing on Mr. Walker?
Leisha Meine March 04, 2012 at 02:56 PM
I also would like to share with each of you this wiki link, which is informed mostly by the ICMA. Please read the section about a 1/4 or so down the page about the History of the Council - Manager form of government in the United States. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council%E2%80%93manager_government (Actually the whole page is good info)
George Lenard March 04, 2012 at 07:21 PM
UCity Fan: I doubt you've given all the facts. You may not know them all. I suspect you're talking about your own circumstances. You have said you are a past employee who "did not take the extra money to sign the gag order." That suggests your employment was terminated and you have not released the City of liabilities. Thus you are someone who potentially could sue the City, at some cost to taxpayers. I'm not interested in facilitating such action by providing a response specific to the scenarios about which you ask. I'm also not going to give legal advice.
George Lenard March 04, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Good information. This is particularly interesting: "While the popularity of council–manager government has endured into the twenty-first century, the system as practiced has changed over time, particularly in once medium-sized communities that have grown into more heterogeneous and politically contentious large cities. In such communities, their elected officials increasingly see themselves as political activists responding to a constituency rather than trustees performing a public service, and they take a greater interest in administration on a day-to-day basis, participating more closely in resolving civic issues, rather than simply identifying them as in the traditional model." I don't know about anyone else, but the role of elected officials as described in the last sentence quoted, rather than the classic one, is what I prefer. Second to that, if most power is to reside in an unelected City Manager, I'd like to see that person be one who is committed to working closely with the Mayor and Council. Hence, I am not troubled that one of the top concerns for a candidate running for Mayor was anticipating who might be hired as City Manager. That is not to say that the rules shouldn't have been followed, but that the violation is understandable.
Steve March 04, 2012 at 07:50 PM
To be clear mr walker first contacted the city officials not the other way around. He specifically called for the then current city manager to be fired. He was working In another city actively working to create the job opening in University City he was then placed into. Absent his efforts to have the city manager removed, there may not have been an opening.
George Lenard March 04, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Yes Steve, more serious that way. The point "there may not have been an opening" is something that should be investigated. My understanding was that was pretty much a given if certain people would be elected.
Cindy March 04, 2012 at 09:46 PM
So, Mr. Walker was calling for the current city manager to be fired, campaigning for Shelley Welsch to help her get elected, and submitted his resume just prior to the election. Now I think we are getting down to the heart of the ethics violations.
George Lenard March 05, 2012 at 02:08 AM
Yes "Fan," I give the administration benefit of doubt. I keep encountering more and more people I consider independent thinkers, whose opinions I respect, who support privately to me what I say publicly here. I also keep seeing the same handful of people here who seem to never give benefit of the doubt. I seek to provide balance. Hypothetical situations, eh? You just confirmed they were not that. I'll give a bit more of a response now. Your first scenario may or may not have been a sound management decision and may or may not have been within the manager's authority without Council approval. I don't know; I don't have all the facts. My guess is it was within his authority and as he looked into it and thought about it he decided to go ahead with it unilaterally. My guess is it wasn't a bad management decision, as you didn't present any facts about negative consequences flowing from it. I've been criticized here for speculating, so I'll admit there's speculation there. As to your second scenario, white lies about reason for termination are not, in my opinion, usually a good idea. They are, in my experience practicing management employment law for over 25 years, quite common. Saying a position is being eliminated is easier and less painful than telling someone you've worked with for years that they're overpaid, underqualified, and not doing a good job. Again, I'm speculating; that may or may not be what happened. But you pushed me with your "avoiding like the plague" comment.

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