Denver council members could start reporting goodies and air travel from city agencies

Denverite: Denver City Council members on Tuesday took up a long-running debate about how they should handle gifts, goodies and trips that are funded by city agencies.

The conversation was a bit comical, with a lot of discussion of the red holiday flowers that appear in the council chambers each holiday season. But it was rooted in deeper concerns, especially about reports of thousands of dollars of flights provided to council members for work trips.

In response, Councilman Kevin Flynn proposes that elected officials could start publishing regular reports on the taxpayer-funded travel and items that they accept, whether it’s a research trip to Panama or a nice jacket from the airport.

In many cases, city officials aren’t allowed to accept valuable gifts from outside groups. The idea is that they could be influenced to treat someone favorably. So, could a council member be swayed by a set of agency-branded gear? Should those rules apply to goods from city agencies, too?

The city’s board of ethics thinks so. In an opinion issued last year, the board advised that council members couldn’t accept items worth more than $25 from the city agencies they oversee.

But city council members argue that wouldn’t really work.

Flynn said that it would create a “limitless rabbit hole.” It could affect employees in routine business, and the ethics rules weren’t meant to cover relationships within the city, he said.

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